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Importers raise alarm as counterfeits flow in

Importers raise alarm as counterfeits flow in

Speaking at a meeting called by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Marketing in Dar es Salaam recently, officials from the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA), Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), Tanzania Freight Forwarders Association (TAFFA) and the Confederation of Trade and Industries (CTI), all said dumping stifled national industrial growth.

“Keeping a keener eye on the quality of goods destined for the country would make exporters of vehicles and other
goods to think twice before deciding to use our country as a dumping site for sub-standard goods,” remarked Mr Laurian Mgalula, representing small business enterprises.

The nation’s diplomatic missions abroad, they said, should be more active in the exercise on behalf of the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS), which is current tasked with the job. Dumping, the stakeholders said, remained one of the major threats retarding efforts by young economies to industrialise due to the introduction of cheap and sub-standard
products into local markets at less than their normal value.

Despite various efforts taken to curb the practice, including the formation of regulatory bodies, Tanzania remains vulnerable to cheap imports such as vehicles, clothes, footwear, machinery, equipments and spare parts due to a loophole that allows the importation of used or second hand items.

That was happening, they said, despite a 2004 law meant to check dumping and the entry into the country of counterfeit goods. The law, they, said, should be seen to bite and where necessary be amended to go with the demands of the times. Recent statistics from CTI showed that government lost between 600bn/- and 900bn/- annually due to tax evasion related to the importation of counterfeit and sub-standard goods.

Similarly, the country loses an estimated 25bn/- monthly due to illegal activities related to dumping of transit goods into the local markets. For example, vehicle inspections are currently done in Dubai, Japan and the United Kingdom but vehicles are now imported from various parts of the world, thus tasking the embassies could reduce the risk of importing sub-standard or fake goods, they said.

The three inspecting firms include the UK based M/S Intertek International Ltd, the M/S Bureau Veritas Inspection, Valuation and Control from France and the M/S Societe Generale De Surveillance S.A from Switzerland. The Tanzania Freight Forwarders Association (TAFFA) president Mr Stephen Ngatunga said PVoC is doing well with vehicle inspections but hurts small scale importers due to multiplication of charges by the inspecting firms.

“TBS should look into ways of facilitating small scale importers, most of whom have closed shop since the system became operational. TTRA has expressed concern over decline of imports as a result,” he said. Responding to stakeholders’ views, the TBS Acting Director General, Mr Leandry Kinabo said involving Tanzania’s foreign missions was no more an option but necessary.

He insisted PVoC will not replace the Destination Inspection (DI) especially for small scale importing enterprise. He underscored the significance of enhancing public awareness to local business people to engage in importing quality products as the only way of safeguarding the economy.

Earlier, the TBS Director of Standards, Ms Kezia Mbwambo said about 4,651 consignments had been inspected in just two months of the PVoC operation for which the government earned 25 per cent of the cost. However, she highlighted porous borders as one of the challenges for curbing sub-standard goods thus calling for the need to bolster the standards regulator with necessary facilities including manpower to address the problem.

In his opening remarks, the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Marketing, Dr Shaban Mwinjaka said stakeholders’ views were necessary to improve the inspection exercise in order to rescue the country from dumping.

In another development, the Bar-Code technology introduced recently has been recommended as the most effective mechanism in waging war against counterfeit products that make the nation to suffer losses amounting to billion of shillings. However, to implement it, there is need for formulating a policy or enacting laws to guide importers to ensure that all goods entering the country bore the code.

In most developed and developing nations, the technology successfully has been introduced for all items circulating in their markets. With the bar code system, she said, it is easy to trace the importer and manufacturer in case counterfeits are introduced into the market.

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Author: SEBASTIAN MRINDOKO

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