Monday, September 21, 2020

Government steps in, protects small producers against unfair competition

The findings of a joint study conducted by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Agriculture, after noticing that small chicken producers have difficulty accessing the market of retail stores, otherwise defined in the regulations as supermarkets and chain stores, have revealed that Halaal requirements are a major constraint, which unless addressed exposed small traders to unfair competition practices.

Halaal is Muslim ritual applied prior or in the cause of slaughtering chicken or animals meant for ultimate sale and distribution for consumption, which is performed exclusively by a person specially oriented to do that. In the same vein, certain stores have made it a precondition for their buying meat products.

The effect of this has been that most citizen chicken producers become alienated because by virtue of their predominantly Christian or non Islamic background they are either naturally disinclined from the ritual or are deliberately systematically kept out of the trade by existing business agreements by retailers and “halaal meat” producers.

In this regard, the Ministry of Trade and Industry has caused for regulations requiring the marking and labeling of all halaal and non-halaal meat and meat products to be passed, which regulations have taken effect starting Sunday 1st March, 2009.

According to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Banny Molosiwa, the import and extent of the regulations is that all retail stores are as of yesterday (Sunday) required to label with the words “halaal” or “non halaal” according to what they are selling, and this should be done in such a way as that it is clearly identifiable.

It is also a rule that there must be displayed over halaal meat or meat products being sold signs that read, (in clearly visible block letters), “halaal meat and meat products”, and similarly over non halaal meat and meat products, signs that read, “Non halaal meat and meat products”.

Traders have further been cautioned to ensure that they separate the halaal meat or meat products to avoid any cross contamination.

Any breach of the stipulated requirements is set to be penalized to the tune of P200 or imprisonment for a term of six months or to both for a first offence, and to a fine of P400 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to both for a second or subsequent offence.

Meanwhile, to show the seriousness with which the matter is being attended to, the PS has stated that her Ministry is at an advanced stage in the drafting of a Competition Law, with a view to having it ready for presentation to Parliament during the course of the first half of this year, 2009. Once approved, there is consensus that the Law, will help level the playing field, such that producers of the same commodity will be granted an equal opportunity of accessing the market.

“One of the ways in which this would be achieved is that the law will have a provision that will prohibit any vertical agreement with dissimilar conditions for equivalent transactions with other trading parties, thereby placing them at a competitive disadvantage,” highlighted Molosiwa.

In addition, the Law aims to make it mandatory that conclusion of contracts be subject to acceptance by other parties of supplementary conditions which by their nature or according to commercial usage, have no connection with subject of such contracts.

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