Why your favourite imported brands are not on the shelves

A supermarket. Confusion at the port of Mombasa, as well as insider sabotage designed to topple efforts to remove counterfeit goods from Kenyan shelves, is the reason some of your favourite imported brands constantly go missing from shops. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Consumers are set to face rising commodity prices as a result of delays in the clearing of goods at the Mombasa port.
  • The delays, which result in expensive demurrage charges on the imports, are then passed down to the consumers, who will have to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for the goods.

Confusion at the port of Mombasa, as well as insider sabotage designed to topple efforts to remove counterfeit goods from Kenyan shelves, is the reason some of your favourite imported brands constantly go missing from shops, the Saturday Nation can reveal.

The multi-agency team charged with cleaning up operations at the port has imposed a 100 per cent verification process on imports.

Consumers are also set to face rising commodity prices as the resulting delay in clearing goods makes some products scarce.

The delays, which result in expensive demurrage charges on the imports, are then passed down to the consumers, who will have to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for the goods.

Major manufacturers like Coca-Cola, which imports industrial sugar, and East African Breweries have previously reported the delays, which stakeholders say can be minimised if not avoided entirely.

Although senior Trade ministry officials were not available for comment on the practicality of the process and how it could be managed to minimise the market inconveniences it was causing, their juniors involved in the verification said some forces were out to make the process messy and allow for an influx of illicit products.

“We have planned to sample only certain products classified as high-risk but some people resorted to sampling everything and taking time to verify them, which is not good for the market. As a result, there is a public outcry on insufficient supply. They hope to use that to justify their opposition to the verification,” said an officer, who requested anonymity.

INSPECTION

Efforts to get comment from Deputy Head of Public Service Wanyama Musiambo, who also heads the multi-agency team on illicit goods, were in vain as he did not answer text messages and calls.

However, the delays are avoidable because Kenya appointed inspection agents in the regions where the goods are imported from in 2005.

Under the Pre-Export Verification of Conformity to Standards, goods are assessed in the country of origin to ensure their compliance with the applicable Kenyan standards.

Last week, Trade Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya applied brakes on destination-inspection of goods entering the Kenyan market without a pre-export verification.

“I have granted the last authority for destination inspection. All importers are notified that with effect from today, January 23, 2019, no requests for destination inspection will be received by the minister,” Mr Munya said.

Kenya appointed Bureau Veritas S.A, Intertek International Limited, China Certification and Inspection (Group) Inspection Company Limited (CCIC), Cotecna Inspection S.A and Swiss-based SGS, stationed in various parts of the world, to carry out the inspection on behalf of Kebs.

The pre-export verification was meant to facilitate the smooth flow of commodities into the country and has been lauded for increasing efficiency and curbing tax evasion.

FREE PERIOD

Mr Munya’s directive, which should essentially hasten the clearing of goods at the port, will however worsen the delays when the goods are subjected to fresh inspection upon arrival.

Importers are allowed up to four days to clear goods from the port, beyond which one begins to be penalised via demurrage charges.

The verification process, which takes up to 30 or 40 days in some cases, is said to have caused losses. Some consumer products are said to be expiring at the port.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers has been vocal in calling for an extension of the free days’ allotment, to allow for the extended clearance period.

“The four days’ free period should be increased to 15 days or aligned with cargo clearing agency service charters. The current cost of demurrage is very high as a result of failure by agencies to perform within their service level agreement. Today, the private sector has been left exposed and bears all costs [caused] by intervening agencies’ inefficiency. In [the] event of delays, the response agency/party should take responsibility,” KAM said in a statement.

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