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    Meru farmers expand market with barcoded dairy products

    The pain of selling milk and its by products to local small scale market by Meru dairy farmers has resulted in the Meru Goat Breeders Association (MGBA), getting the farmers’ products barcoded now giving farmers an expanded guaranteed market. With the bar codes in place, the Association’s chairman Gitonga Muthengi is optimistic they will finally crack the market they couldn’t initially, major supermarkets. Currently they are aggressively seeking marketing agents and companies all over the country open to buying their goat milk. “We really want the goat farmers to benefit,” said Muthengi.  

    With the prospects market for MGBA goat milk looking up, the association has so far received a Sh2.7 million financial boost from Innovation Fund to help them train farmers on handling milk and help MGBA to streamline their milk processing operations.  

    For small organisations like MGBA the bar code acquisition is one of the last hurdles to cross before their products hit the supermarkets. Along with barcodes, shopping outlets may also require farmers to have an introductory and registration letter. “We might also need to see products certification evidence from Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and products samples before we stock,” says Bernard Kongo of Uchumi Supermarket.  

    However the initial step before any food processing entity commences operations is registration by government’s registrar of companies. The certification of registration is then presented to (KEBS) who gives a standardization mark permit.  

    The permit is given after a Quality Assurance Officer from KEBS visits the manufacturing premises and tests the products’ suitability for use. “Its illegal to sell something that’s not certified by us,” said John Nyosore of KEBS Standardization unit.

    For a company whose yearly turnover doesn’t exceed Sh200, 000 KEBS charges Sh5800 for the permit inclusive of Value Added Tax (VAT). For turnover between Sh200, 000 to 500,000 they are charged Sh11, 600. The permit fee is subject to annual renewal.  

    After a manufacturing entity has fulfilled the aforementioned regulations, they can approach a bar coding company with supporting documents. The documents are the company and PIN certificate and list of products to be bar coded.  

    Around the city there are companies like GS1 Kenya or Technology Partners who provide bar coding technology. For GS1 Africa they charge Sh5500 to register a new member company costs subject to 16 percent VAT.   

    Then there is an annual subscription that gets charged depending on the company’s annual turnover. Once the fee is paid “the bar codes get activated immediately,” said Dorothy Kwamboka of GS1 Kenya Brand Activities Executive. The bar codes expire yearly after which they are renewed. “Different products are assigned different bar codes for them,” she adds.  

    Besides industry supervision, KEBS also assigns the prestigious mark the Diamond Mark of Quality. The diamond mark certification is open to interested manufacturers. But companies interested in having their products branded with it, pay KEBS to be performing random checks on their on shelf products.  

    The checks are done over a random period of time. “We don’t tell when we are testing,” said Nyosore. If in the period the product doesn’t fail the KEBS quality tests. KEBS certifies it a superior product and awards the diamond mark. “If it’s a failure we communicate with the industrialists,” he adds.  

    The diamond mark is highly respected in East Africa as per Nyosore. And the products with it have more marketability of products within East Africa  

    The test charges to be awarded the diamond mark are relatively higher and are charged at 0.2 percent of the company’s annual turnover.

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