Manufacturers in Uganda have been urged to form partnerships with producers of quality packaging materials if their products are to be appeal to the global market.
Majority of the local businesses are constrained by funding which affects the quality of their packaging and in the end lose out to competitors that have invested heavily.
Elly Twineyo, the CEO Uganda Exports Promotion Board while speaking at a discussion on Packaging for the 21st Century Consumer on Wednesday said that smaller business can still afford to produce high quality packaged products if they work jointly.
“Consumers buy whatever attracts them and that’s the importance of packaging. Our local companies are small, some of the exporters are even individuals which has a bearing on the packaging they use,” he said.
The challenge is that they are still working individually, he said.
“If the SMEs work together as a group and partner with a big packaging company, they can manage to negotiate for cheaper prices and long term working relationships,” he added.
Government has been pushing the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) policy aimed at encouraging Ugandans to support locally made products as well as increase their shelf space in supermarket.
However, many Ugandans argue that the issue of quality (in product and packaging) must be tackled if they are to prefer local products over imported ones.
Twineyo says that poor packaging affects the price Ugandan products get and quality of those exported.
“Our products are largely sold to corner shops but even then they are first repackaged. As we move towards selling big supermarkets, we shall have to ensure quality which takes packaging too,” Teineyo said.
Among other initiatives to emphasize quality, the Exports Promotion Board has developed a Company Diagnostics and Export Readiness Assessment to prepare exporters for the world market.
A local food processing company Jakana Foods Ltd is looking to solve the packaging problems not only for itself but the entire manufacturing industry in Uganda.
Having been suffered significant losses as a result of the hefty taxes (170%) she incured on importation of pouches (packaging materials), Meg Hilbert Jaquay, the Managing Director Jakana Foods decided to secure capital and invested in acquiring her own pouch making machine.
“Shelf life is an important feature for the banana juice that we produce. There’s no commerce viability in something that lasts a day. So you have to know what kind of packaging you need to make it last a year,” Meg said during the discussion at Hotel Africana.
She added; “But we didn’t buy the machine only for ourselves because we cannot be alone in this. We are here to grown the industry and put Uganda on the map for its quality products.”
Jakana Foods now packs for other local manufacturers to help them to pass the quality mark and penetrate the export markets.
Meg said that businesses in Uganda cannot afford to avoid partnerships given the picky market they are producing for yet the cost of credit remains high.
“Investment in this kind of equipment isn’t easy so we had to find an investor outside Uganda. Partnerships are the way to build business,” she said, adding; “You might have an idea but you just don’t have the financial capacity to start a factory. Partner It will still be your brand on the product.”
She said that in this age when consumers are prioritizing convenience, manufacturers must think of how convenient their products will be right from the time it leaves their factory until when it gets to the final consumer.
But Dennis Ngabirano, the proprietor of Psalms Food Industries Ltd hinted on the dynamics in the Ugandan market that make it difficult for manufacturers like him to maintain the “high cost” of quality packaging.
He told ChimpReports that; “We have a challenge with our consumer market. You try to follow all the standards and practices; however when you take the product to the market, the prices are likely to be higher for our clients who consider quantity when buying over quality.”
“When the prices go up, the customers will now prefer quantity of the product at the expense of the quality. Yet in the long term, substandard products which are cheap may have health effects on the consumer,” he said.
Ngabirano wants Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) to embark on sensitization of consumers in Uganda on the benefits of buying high quality packaged products.