EDITORIAL: Restore supply of Kebs quality stickers quickly

printing machines kebs
One of the printing machines inside the Kenya Bureau of Standards. File Photo | NMG  

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) must move fast to restore supply of quality mark stickers to avert a looming shortage of basic consumer goods.

While it is understandable that the current embargo is intended to remove fake stickers from circulation, prolonging the situation could create unintended consequences.

Leading retail chains such as Naivas and Carrefour have already warned of a looming shortage of commodities.

The retailers say their current stocks could run out in a matter of weeks.

The shortage is obviously likely to be felt across the board and even affect crucial supplies such as medication.

Consumers who are already troubled by news of grave quality and safety violations as a result of failure by Kebs and other State agencies, are likely to be the biggest victims of a severe supply shortage.The poor, especially, are likely to take the hardest hit from ensuing price increases, Kenya being a liberal market economy.

Past history suggests that price increases, even artificial ones such as those caused by supply shortages, tend to stick for a long time.

Supply chain disruptions also take long to mend, since some of the imported goods have long order periods.

Traders who incur storage charges quickly pass on such costs to consumers in a bid to protect their profit margins.

Coming just months after a prolonged electioneering year that virtually brought everything to a standstill, another large-scale economic interruption would be too costly to bear.

Kenya’s position as an organised economy that is home to a large international community would also suffer a big dent if it were to record wide commodity shortages.

Kebs was right in withdrawing the fake stickers, but it must now take practical steps that are cognisant of the current reality.

If the process of procuring a new supplier of secure stickers is proving too bureaucratic then it must take emergency measures to unlock flow of goods.

The standards agency could, for example, allow the entry of goods by importers who have previous history of compliance to Kenyan standards.Such temporary measures must not, however, open another loophole for importation of low quality or poisonous goods.