The Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS) has awarded a certificate of conformity to Kalota agricultural cooperative of Meheba refugee camp for rice production in the Kalumbila district of Northwestern province.
ZABS Chief Executive Officer, Manuel Mutale presented the certificate to the cooperative at its rice processing centre in Meheba yesterday.
Mr Mutale said his institution is proud to present the certificate to the cooperative.
“We are very proud as ZABS that we are awarding the certificate of conformity to this facility. What that means is that your product is safe for consumption and it gives the cooperative the assurance that the work they are doing is in compliance with the requirements of the standards,” he said.
Mr Mutale explained that once a product is certified, it must carry the ZABS quality mark to indicate to consumers that it is a safe product.
He disclosed that in 2019, ZABS resolved to offer a second-tier certification to cater to small-medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country.
“In 2019, we resolved that we come up with some second-tier certification programme which would embrace the SMEs because our understanding is that SMEs are producing products that are going into the market and we need that assurance that those products are complying with standards,” Mr Mutale said.
He advised that the printing on the packaging for the Meheba rice will now have to be revised to include the ZABS quality mark.
“The packaging will have to be re-done to put the ZABS quality mark so that consumers can see that an independent board has certified the product and given the quality mark,” he said.
He pointed out that Zambia must be able to demonstrate that products are complying with national standards, more especially after the country agreed to the Africa Continental Free Trade Area.
“As a country, we should be able to demonstrate that the products are complying with national standards. As you know, Zambia has assented to the Africa Continental Free Trade Area which means that we should talk quality even at the lowest level because that is the only way Zambian products are going to go into the African continental markets,” Mr Mutale said.
He has since advised other cooperatives to take a leaf from what Kalota agricultural cooperative has achieved.
And Caritas Czech Republic Project Coordinator, Bwalya Kampamba said his institution helped the cooperative with the polishing and grading machines to help in the production process.
Mr Kampamba said the cooperative procures rice from farmers and processes it before packaging.
“The cooperative offers rice polishing services to the community…the fees help the cooperative to manage the daily operations of the rice processing centre,” he said.
Mr Kampamba added that the processing centre has the capacity to produce 1,200 kilogrammes of rice per hour.
Speaking at the same event, Meheba Refugee Officer, Castrol Singelengele said the award of the certificate of conformity signifies the government’s commitment to ensuring that there is the inclusion of refugees in everything that it is implementing.
Mr Singelengele congratulated the cooperative for the certificate saying the certification will enable the cooperative to market its products very well within the province and the nation at large.
He however said the cooperative faces a number of challenges.
“With regards to rice production here, the challenge that we are facing is the power that we use…it is diesel-powered, as a result, hours of production are reduced. We had Rural Electrification Authority (REA) assess the area for possible connection sometime back and we are hoping they get back soon to electrify Meheba,” Mr Singelengele said.
He said there are many people who like the Meheba rice but producers are unable to meet the demand due to lack of electricity in the area.
Meanwhile, Kalota agricultural cooperative chairperson, Joseph Kabala expressed happiness at the award of the certification to the cooperative.
“We are happy with what ZABS has done. The certification will help us to supply to supermarkets,” Mr Kabala said.
He advised other cooperatives to work hard so that they can be supported by ZABS to help scale up their businesses.