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Tanzania: Sido Trains Food ExportersWednesday, February 25, 2015 > 11:24:36
By Abduel Elinaza
MANY food processors fail to win hearts of local and international customers because to them safety and quality is a matter of chance and not choice.
Failure to give safety and quality due attention not only tarnishes and deny processors customers, but also risks the country's food products to be blacklisted abroad.
The malpractice where local food processors tamper with quality is not good at all. Small Industries Development Organisation Food (SIDO) Director General Eng Omar Bakari said safety and quality is an important prerequisite for processors either supplying local or international markets.
"The first step is to make sure that processors acquire local quality certification from either Tanzania Bureau of Standards or Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority and then looking for international ones," Eng Bakari said.
The second step is for them to be certified by international bodies for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). SIDO DG said some big processors in the country have the certification of International Trade Centre HACCP but the problem is with the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
To bridge the gap SIDO is collaborating with ITC and Finland to train some SMEs into attaining the HACCP certification. The programme started this month expected to last for two years.
Eng. Bakari said exporting non-food items is going on well but the challenges come for food as processors have to be conversant with a number of laws and regulations ranging from local to international levels.
To start with, 10 processors have been selected from three products namely -- honey, mango and spices as an intervention on the implementation of food safety.
He said the trainees will develop the required skills and competences to enable them provide assistance in the area of Food Safety to additional enterprises after the completion of the project and through SIDO and other institutions.
The ITC, Adviser on Export Quality Management, Ms Ludovica Ghizzoni, said the training is part of the project 'Promoting Intra-regional Trade in Eastern Africa' with a lifespan of three years until 2016.
"The food business demands compliance to international food safety standards involving all steps from farm to the table when food reaches consumers through the food chain," she said.
She added: "Food safety and quality are not negotiable anymore". The project is addressing value chain challenges hindering export competitiveness of producers, SMEs and TSIs in selected agri-business sectors and promoting intra-regional trade in Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia.
The component has the objective to build the capacity of selected 10 agro and agro-processing companies to comply with national and international food safety requirements.
The selected companies would at the same time be required to build the capacity of a pool of ten experts, called trainers counsellors on food safety to ensure sustainability.
The performance of several SMEs in Tanzania, Ms Ghizzoni said, are badly affected by lack of adequate skills in good agricultural practices, hygiene and managing practices, food safety and quality management risking to be blacklisted.
"Not only the manufacturer could be 'blacklisted' but the country could be banned to send that food product or related food products to the importing country," she said.
SIDO/WED-(women entrepreneurship development project), Happiness Mchomvu said the participants selection was based on those who are already at a certain level of processing to enable them acquire export knowledge.
"The margin of SMEs' exports is still low as the local demand is still high and pays very well," Ms Mchomvu said. She said the knowledge acquired by participants will not only help to observe international food hygiene standards but also the local ones as the gap on that front is also recognisable.
One weak link in the chain may result in unsafe foods that has an adverse health effect, and if this happens, the hazards to consumers may be serious as well as the danger of a ban on the business that caused the hazard.
Tanzania Honey Council representative, Mr Mustaq Osman, said the training would add value to participants as playing with safety quality has a heavy toll on the country's reputation.
"The training is good, as it is also a point of networking," Mr Osman, who is a chief instructor of college of engineering and technology at University of Dar es Salaam, said.
Tabora-based Farida Abdallah Enterprise Manager Mr Mukesh Patel said the training would enable them to understand more about food safety, quality and hygiene.
"We are currently exporting about two 20-feet containers of honey to Saudi Arabia but the workshop is an eye opener, they (ITC) are empowering us to export more," Mr Patel, who is among ten selected entrepreneurs, said.
The selected trainers-cumcounsellors will receive in-depth practical training to become experts on Food Safety through training and coaching and will contribute to the monitoring and implementation of the food safety systems in selected participating enterprises within the duration of the ITC programme.
Finland has supported the programme while SIDO organised the workshop on Hygiene Practices and Food Safety Systems based on HACCP in World Trade.
ITC, the technical cooperation agency of the UN and World Trade Organization, based in Geneva, assists developing and transition economy countries to take advantage of expanding trade opportunities in an increasingly complex global environment.
TBS, Ministry of Agriculture; TFDA; Tanzania Exporter Association are partners of the project.
SIDO, with an objective of developing the small industry sector in Tanzania, was expected to fulfil a range of functions, from policy formulation to direct support to industries, to hands - on involvement in the establishment of SMEs in both rural and urban areas.