Traceability the route to SME export growth – Business Daily

In its quest to become a player of formidable significance in international trade, Kenya, and to a larger extent Africa, urgently needs commodity traceability as a principle and base practice.
The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), cites ISO 9001:2015 that views traceability as the ability to identify the history, application, use and location of an item or its characteristics through recorded identification data.
This definition views traceability as the ability to track the movement through specified stages of the extended supply chain and trace backward the history, application or location.
Traceability is important in ensuring compliance such as Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) in agricultural products, managing the supply chain needs and quality assurance.
This is in addition to abiding by the rules of origin in trade. There have been cases in the Kenyan commercial space that have given cues to the compromise in our trade competitiveness brought about by the absence of a traceability practice, particularly in the food and agricultural products.
The recent furore over fast food company KFC’s decision not to admit products from a local supplier alluded to gaps in our quality assurance processes that feature traceability as a key factor.
Trading partners especially in the EU have in many instances declined to qualify our meat suppliers on the basis of missing traceability assurances. There are more examples of similar gaps in fruits and vegetable sub-sectors in particular as well as in other sectors.
But there are challenges beyond shortfalls from access to markets to more common scenarios of product recalls, which result in huge losses or diminished margins.
But if traceability is this crucial, why is our registration of the process dismal?
Studies on the actual SME experiences show that a number of setbacks are responsible, including prohibitive costs of setting up technologies and collateral, gaps and low levels of record-keeping practices and the complexity of supply chains, especially on the export frontiers of some destinations like the EU.
The infrastructural investment in the export sector is also still underdeveloped or yet to be primed to handle queries, identify problems and effectively manage complaints. The negative effect is a jeopardized competitiveness in export commodities and a tedious process of undertaking international trade.
Time is now right to review the entire supply chain of the export market and incorporate efficient traceability into the processes.
The livestock sector is already alive to the realities and has the Livestock Identification and Traceability System under discussion.
Steps are underway to enforce legal frameworks based on national, regional and international standards.
Complying with the global traceability is one of the entry requirements to global trade that we must take seriously. Compliance is a strong signal that we are ready for the international markets.
Our SMEs must be refined to comply and scale up trade of their commodities without hinderance.

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By Kwetu Buzz

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