In today’s competitive world trade quality of product counts most. Those countries which ignore quality lose. Take the example of Pakistan. At the time of independence it inherited a quality control system which was confined to meat, cream, butter, mustard oil and eggs.
Their grading was done on a voluntary basis under a federal law called “Agricultural Product (Grading and Marking) Act, 1937”, for internal consumption, which later on was extended to certain exportable items.
Wool was the first product for which compulsory grading was introduced in 1954 for export purposes. Between 1954 and 1964, three more commodities -goat hair, coriander seed and sannhemp – were brought under the orbit of compulsory grading for export.
In 1964, as a result of the reorganisation of various government departments, the grading of commodities for internal consumption was transferred to the provincial governments. But they could not proceed satisfactorily in this regard for want of trained personnel and this useful work came to a standstill.
The grading of exportable commodities continued to be done by the federal marketing department. Grading of about 20 items for export purposes, has so far been introduced. The items are wool, animal hair, hides and skin, potatoes, eggs, oil cakes, dry fish/shell fish, animal casings, lamb skins, citrus fruit, lime and lemon, chilies, fish meal, mango, dates, onion, garlic, molasses, bones and a number of fresh vegetables.
A test house, adequately equipped with necessary testing facilities has been established at Karachi, both for research purposes and quality evaluations of the specified export items.
Eight grading centres at Lahore, Multan, Sargodha, Peshawar, Quetta, Ormara, Pasani and Gawadar have also been set up with adequate facilities. Facilities for inspection and grading are also provided on adhoc basis at market on request.
Such facilities have been provided so far at a number of other places where traders, from time to time, found it convenient to prepare their goods for export. Thus a network of such facilities has been provided for the smooth working of the grading activity.
Whereas preparation of goods according to the National Standards of Quality is the responsibility of the traders, the department provides necessary guidance and undertakes the inspection of goods to verify their quality as per laid down standards.
Thus inspection and evaluation involves physical examination, chemical, physiological or microbiological testing, as the case may be. A certificate of quality is then issued for the consignments, which conform to the prescribed standards. Similarly, quality control facilities are provided at other stations from where exports are made without touching the regular export points.
As a matter of necessity, the government’s grading activity of agricultural and livestock products is a continuous process and more and more times are being covered under the grading net from time to time.
Pakistan over the years has been able to establish a scientific system of grading for export purposes, which gave encouraging results. The major achievements of the grading system are (i) improvement in quality, (ii) getting better prices, (iii) increase in export volumes and (iv) diversification of exports.
In the final analysis, quality control measures under a well-defined system of compulsory grading have significantly contributed towards regulating export trade in agricultural and livestock products. Its performance can, however, improve if financial constraints are removed.
Courtesy: The DAWN