The introduction of barcode technology in the country is gradually bringing about business revolution particularly to the small and medium scale enterprises, an important backbone that could contribute significantly to economic growth by playing a key role in identifying bottlenecks and inefficiencies in the supply chain. The technology has proved to be fundamental instrument in promoting competitiveness of local manufactured goods.
Training on quality packaging and use of barcode to small and medium entreprenuers was facilitated by the European Development Fund (EDF) and the Ministry of Industry and Trade .
“The aim of the trainings on the use of barcodes and food traceability was basically to enhance the SMEs capacity that could ultimately promote competitiveness of goods in both local and global markets,” said he Director of Planning and Policy in the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Mr Edward Sungula.
It involved 54 participants from various institutions such as the ministry responsible for industry and trade, Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA), GS1-Kenya, GS1-Tanzania, Tanzania Bureau of Statistics (TBS).
Others are Small Industries Development Organisation (SIDO), Tanzania Industrial Research and Development Organisation (TIRDO), Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union (KNCU) and entrepreneurs from different companies. The objective of training was to create awareness on barcodes and to develop technical knowledge and awareness of food traceability system.
Other trainings on packaging are expected to be conducted in November in two more zones. Traceability standards is an automatic identification and data capture on the products, which provide information to consumers by identifying the product, its manufacture and country of origin, date of manufacturing, expiry date, inventory number and compliance with national and international standards.
It communicates the safety and quality of the product to the end user, thus increasing consumer’s confidence on goods to be purchased and willing to pay for premium price. Inaugurating the GS1 Five year strategic plan recently, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda has called on local businesses whose products use foreign barcodes to localise them to promote the country in international markets.
He said it is a shame for businesses to embrace foreign barcodes while the country could provide the same. He remarked, “The aim of using barcodes is to facilitate the industrial sector to grow by 15 per cent for the country to become semi-industrialised economy by 2025.”
Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) Executive Director, Godfrey Simbeye, says the use of barcode compels manufacturers to adhere to quality standards of the products, a necessary component in the competitive market.
“It is high time for the small and medium scale enterprises to adopt the traceability standards because it would compel producers to enhance the quality of their products,” he said. The head of Division Food and Biotechnology at the Tanzania Industrial Research and Development Organisation (TIRDO), Mr Humphrey Ndossi, says there was a direct relation between bar code and quality standards of the products.
He notes that insertion of the barcode at any product was a last process after having completed all the other procedures required by standards regulators like Tanzania Food and Drugs Regulatory Authority (TFDA), Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) before penetrating the markets.
For example, by providing information on suppliers or customers involved in potential food safety issues, traceability can enable targeted product recalls or withdrawals. Similarly, the implementation of food safety management systems can support efficient and consistent traceability.
Furthermore, the use of barcode technology has pushed up sales of local products in super markets, the situation that has called for increased production to meet the yearning demands. “Demand for local products in supermarkets across the country has gone up after we started using the traceability standards 18 months ago,” testifies Ms Janeth Mlowe, an entrepreneur dealing with food products.
Ms Mlowe added, “The mounting demand has turned my concentration to increase supply and stop going to exhibitions to display my products.” Apart from supermarkets, Ms Mlowe said her goods were currently found in various small scale retail outlets in Dar es Salaam and other major urban centres. She urged other small scale entrepreneurs to use barcode technology because it will yield premium returns.
On her part, Ms Mpalley Mwaipola from Funguka Spices says the use of traceability standards has led to increased demand from both local and foreign markets, the situation which is tasking them to produce in huge quantities. The GS1 (T) Chief Executive Officer, Ms Fatma Kange, said 18 months after introducing the barcode technology, more than 360 companies have adopted it with almost 6,000 varieties of goods in circulation.
She said insufficient finance to reach small, medium and large scale manufacturers across the country has remained to be the challenge. For example, a total of 763.7m/- is needed in the first year of the implementations of the strategic plan for market campaigns of the barcode system to both urban and rural areas.
“It is within the company plan to ensure that all retail shops in urban centres and rural communities were transformed in the manner they conduct their businesses,” she said. Also the company will help the country formalise businesses by providing education to the SMEs on the use of the barcodes.