Dti working to protect consumers from low quality imports

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pretoria-The Department of Trade and Industry (dti) is working with industry to protect consumers from low quality food imports.

"The dti is currently working with the relevant industry and SABS [South African Bureau of Standards] to develop voluntary standards and later compulsory specifications to protect SA consumers from low quality and fraudulent imports, for example, in the organic and olive oil sectors," dti Minister Rob Davies said on Friday.

The dti has funded the food-processing sector to the value of R736 million in incentives over the past three years.

Davies noted that South African traditional export markets for South African food processors, the EU and US are expected to register relatively low growth for the next two to three years. Opportunities for SA produced goods exist in Brics countries, the African continent and the Middle-East region he said.

Davies said that the recently pronounced Special Economic Zones (SEZ) programme offers important opportunities for farmers to assist the government to undertake long-term planning. This will assist to reduce infrastructure and logistics costs.

South Africa is paying attention to food standards for compliance purposes in export markets while also using standards to curb the influx of inferior imports.

Speaking to representatives of the food-processing Sector Davies launched the first phase of the Organic Farmer/Retailer Programme (OFRP), at Pick n Pay.

The programme is a joint venture between the dti, Pick n Pay, Shoprite and Spar. Pick n Pay is the first retailer to agree to provide dedicated Organic produce shelf-space in 50 stores countrywide as its contribution to facilitating the development of the organic produce sector and emerging farmers.

According to the dti, the programme seeks to address supply-side failures by assisting smallholder farmers to meet the requirements of formal retailers.

"The dti and Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries seek to do this by providing technical assistance to smallholder farmers to ensure improved understanding of retailers procurement processes, product specifications, and product demand to smooth the supply of organic produce," said the dti.

The second objective is to encourage retailers and consumers to demand organic produce in larger quantities and varieties, said the department adding that the environmental and job creation benefits of organic produce are significant.