Arua. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Arua District have decried the high certification costs of their products and long procedures by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS).
They also said that the bulky documentation processes and lack of regional offices in the area were to blame for their failure to certify their products to meet the required minimum standards.
This was during an engagement meeting between UNBS officials and promoters of SMEs in Arua District last week.
Currently, certifications to meet the ‘Q’ requirement for quality and ‘S’ for standard ranges between Shs250,000 and Shs800,000 annually.
The marks are assurances that the products in question have met the required standards on the Ugandan market and are genuine.
Mr Peter Jurua, a meat processor in Arua, said the high costs could be profit margins for some of the small businesses.
“Attaining a ‘Q’ mark is very expensive because it is Shs800,000 per year and that may be a profit margin for a small scale industry annually. Parting with that money for a small scale business is a challenge,” Mr Jurua said.
He said majority of small scale industries in West Nile still process their products manually due to lack of electricity in rural areas coupled with high production costs which make certification a challenge.
But Mr Constantine Embatia, a wine processor in the area, said the locals had not realised the importance of certifying their products and that they fear competition.
Costs being revised
Mr Ronald Ahimbisibwe, the principal certification officer at UNBS, said the process of certification is simple.
“UNBS has a special scheme for small scale enterprises where they don’t pay all that money but that cost is being revised. So the cost will not be an issue as long as the fee proposed is not an issue,” Mr Ahimbisibwe said.
He said all UNBS needed was a commitment by local processors to implement standards if their products are to access regional and international markets.
Mr Jobel Ayiko, the Arua Municipal commercial officer, said majority of local and upcoming agro-processors in Arua were ignorant about the processes and importance of certification.