Kampala City Traders Association-KACITA has called for a two month’s boycott of all imports to Uganda until government re-adjusts the Pre-Export Verification of Conformity of Standards (PVoC) guidelines reinstated last Friday. The implementation of the PVoC means that all contracted agents must comply with the guidelines which require that all goods be verified in their country of origin before they are shipped to their final destination. However, KACITA argues that verifying quality by observation was limited and suggests testing products during the manufacturing process to ensure quality standards.
Government suspended the scheme in June last year to allow the concerned parties to review PVoC and iron out conflicting issues. In that period, the review committee focused on how to put in place a mechanism to fight counterfeits, adopt comprehensive legislation on counterfeits, develop a benchmark for checking adulterated goods and harmonize PVoC guidelines to address concerns from traders, manufacturers and importers. According to Amelia Kyambadde, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives these areas have been addressed but there are still minor areas of contention.
Kyambadde argues that KACITA’s boycott threat is uncalled for as the importers have been accommodated in the scheme.
But Everest Kayondo, the KACITA Chairperson maintains that there has been decimal achievement by the committee and the contentious issues such as group cargo, which is exempted except for foodstuffs and cosmetics are far from being resolved. He says KACITA will halt its imports if PVoC is implemented without revision.
Issa Ssekito, the KACITA Spokesperson argues that PVoC increases the cost of doing business because the fees are charged as a percentage of the Free on Board value of goods. He explains that the higher the price of goods the higher PVoC fee is charged contrary to the charges for pre-shipment inspection which were specific per consignment for instance 200 US dollars per 40ft container regardless of the value of goods.
Ssekito points out that PVoC should serve as a regulatory to control quality and not revenue function which makes it an additional tax to the importer. They argue that the higher fee on quality goods will encourage importation of inferior goods through irregular channels.
Other concerns were weak legislations on counterfeits, lack of capacity at the Uganda National Bureau of Standards which only mans 17 out of 52 entry points. Limited information on how PVoC will work and the credibility of contracted agents such as Socie’te Generalle Surveillance SGS.