The Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS) has certified the Maheba rice produced by Kalota Agricultural Cooperative Society based at the Maheba Refugee Camp in North Western Province. During the certificate handover ceremony held at Maheba Refugee Camp, the ZABS Executive Director Manuel Mutale hailed the cooperative for the initiative to grow and package rice to economically empower themselves and also to meet the nutritional needs in the region while ensuring that their product meets the quality standards.
Mr. Mutale explained that the introduction of the certified Local supplier scheme by ZABS, has given an opportunity to start-up SMEs and Cooperatives to have a certification that would make it easy for them to enter the local market and have a competitive advantage over non-certified products. He further said producers at all levels including cooperatives and SMEs in the country need to demonstrate with confidence that their products are meeting minimum requirements of set standards to compete favorably especially now with the commencement of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement that Zambia assented to. Mr. Mutale, encouraged other cooperatives and SMES to emulate the Kalota Agricultural Cooperative Society for their commendable effort to apply standards and to ensure that they produce a quality product.
During the handover ceremony, Kalota Agricultural Cooperative Society Chairperson, Mr. Joseph Kabala said the Cooperative was happy with the technical assistance that they received from ZABS that helped them to put in place processes to ensure that their product is compliant to standards. He further said that their customers demanded for proof of quality and adherence to set standards and now that the ZABS Certification has been issued the cooperative was excited that the certification will be used as evidence that the Maheba Rice packaged by the cooperative is a quality product.
Speaking at the same function the Maheba Refugee Officer Mr. Castrol Singelengele said the bringing on board of the Kalota Cooperative onto the ZABS Certification Scheme is a clear demonstration of Governments commitment towards the inclusion of the refugees in everything that the government is doing. He said the Economic Recovery Plan launched by His Excellency the President, Dr Edgar Lungu also focuses on value addition and the concept is slowly being actualized as evidenced by the participation of refugees in the economic activities. He said that Maheba has been producing rice for some time but lacked value addition and certification to effectively market its product. Mr. Sengelengele indicated that with the issuance of the ZABS Certification Mark the Cooperative would penetrate new markets within and outside Northwestern Province.