The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
ZIMBABWEANS must fully embrace the Buy Zimbabwe initiative since reports that Brazil has been exporting condemned meat products show that locals could have been exposed to unsafe imported products.
The country has joined a number of countries throughout the world that have temporarily banned meat imports from Brazil in the wake of reports that the South American country has been exporting bad products over the years.
Some of the countries that have banned the imports include China, South Africa, South Korea, Chile and a number of EU countries.
It is alleged that Brazil’s major meat-packing businesses bribed inspectors to get health certificates and masked tainted meat as fit for consumption in various parts of the world. In some instances, investigators said inspectors allowed employees to use government computers to issue their own export licenses.
Among the more than 30 companies implicated are JBS, the world’s largest beef exporter, and BRF, the world’s largest poultry exporter. They are both accused of using chemicals or mixing in healthy meat to obscure poor quality meat.
Brazil is the world’s second-largest producer of chicken and beef, sending them to 150 countries, and meat in general is among the country’s top exports. Brazil was relying largely on agriculture to pull it out of what has been its worst recession in over 100 years.
Chicken imports, particularly from Brazil and South Africa, have continued to flood the local market, choking the local poultry industry.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Mr Busisa Moyo said the rotten meat scandal export by Brazil should serve as an example for consumers to embrace locally produced goods.
“We should stick to what we know and support local products which are subjected to rules and regulations by reputable bodies like Trade Measures and Standards Association of Zimbabwe which we are familiar with. Cheap is not always cheap as health costs escalate indirectly through unfamiliar health complications and even fatalities as with baby powdered-milk from China a few years ago,” said Mr Moyo.
He said although local products are perceived to be of low quality mostly due to their less attractive packaging their health standards are top notch.
“While local products are perceived as being of lower quality, this is a misconception as quality needs to be defined not only in terms of glittery packaging but product content, health standards and responsible production practices. To maintain these health standards it must be appreciated that the cost of production will be slightly higher than imported products. The consumer in Zimbabwe needs to be more discerning and not learn through adverse health experiences,” said Mr Moyo.
Buy Zimbabwe chief executive officer Mr Munyaradzi Hwengwere said the influx of substandard imports was one of the reasons which led to Government engaging French company, Bureau Veritas to restrict non-conforming consignment from entering into the country through the ports of entry.
“That’s why the Ministry of Industry and Commerce came about with Bureau Veritas to ensure that what comes into the country confounds with certain standards and the other issue is that the whole idea of Buy Zimbabwe is of ensuring production of quality products, not everything that is cheap is of good quality,” said Mr Hwengwere.
Bureau Veritas is a conformity compliance issuing international organisation and is a leader in testing, inspection and certification. It was engaged by Government last year and opened a local office in July last year.
Bureau Veritas operates in 140 countries worldwide. Currently, in Africa, Bureau Veritas offers pre-shipment services to Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, Uganda, South Africa and Cote d’lvoire.
Mr Hwengwere said people should not compromise their health through consuming substandard products due to low prices.
“Whereas people are concerned about their pockets or low disposable income they should be worried about their lives. The underlining factor of buying local products has to consider one’s health, jobs and the country’s wealth,” he said.
Buy Zimbabwe is a competitiveness driver that works closely with co-operating institutions such as the National Economic consultative Forum, Standard Association of Zimbabwe, Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ), CZI, and Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce with the Government to promote the production and consumption of local goods and services on the local and international market.
The Buy Zimbabwe Campaign is designed to unlock our country’s full potential and inspire economic growth and competitiveness of local brands.
CCZ executive director Mrs Rosemary Siyachitema said exporters should be bound by morals and ethics aimed at ensuring that their products do not compromise the health or lives of consumers.
“It’s important that when people do international exports they should be principled and have morals. Anyone exporting has to be bound by ethics and principles just like we talk about people bringing in ARVs (Antiretroviral drugs) that are expired, I think such people have to be reprimanded by the International Trade,” she said.
Mrs Siyachitema said it was important for the country to have an internal quality assessment authority to ensure people are not exposed to consumption of unfit goods.
“I think we have to know the origins of the product and how it was manufactured and we have to have our own structures to test things that come into our country. In essence we should have an internal quality assessment authority base on the standards we set for our people,” she said, further stating that: It’s also very important to embrace our policies which promote buying and consumption of local products because if we don’t do that we become prone to be a dumping ground”.