Enterprise

Start-ups, farmers bet on Kebs upgrade for faster food testing

Kebs chief Charles Ongwae. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Kebs chief Charles Ongwae. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) says it has cut the time needed for producers to get product certification from an average 77 days to 57 or fewer, in a move that is speeding up product launches for farmers and start-ups keen on value addition.

Opica Farm in Nyeri, which has set up the production facility to make flour from pumpkins, says it applied for Kebs permits on January 10 and is due to receive its permits this week.

“The process is faster, our products have been inspected and we are collecting our permits three days from now. This will enable us to begin production and start selling our products and realising revenues,” said Michael Miraya Gichengo, Opica Farm co-founder.

Kebs, which is responsible for affirming the safety of food production in Kenya, last year invested Sh300 million in the purchase of modern equipment that delivers high performance liquid chromatography used to test food samples.

Other new equipment included machinery that delivers gas chromatography mass spectrometry, inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry, polymerase chain reaction and an absorption analytical spectrometre.

“The bureau in the 2016/2017 financial year bought modern equipment to help improve on our service delivery. This has enabled automation of a number of processes reducing average time for product certification,” Eric Chesire, the bureau’s quality assurance and Inspection director.

As a result, where it previously took 25 days to test food samples, it is now taking KEBS 21 days, saving applicants four days in waiting to commence certificated sales.

Kebs has regional offices, giving clients easy access. In 2015, Western Stone Enterprises, which produces peanuts and ground nut powder, suffered losses and accused Kebs of delays.

It applied for the certification in 2015, paying Sh5,800 per product, but it took the producer almost two months to get its permits, which saw it lose sales to competitors.

“We applied for our production permit two years ago. After application it took about two weeks for our products inspection and then we waited for about 60 days to get our permit,” said Hanna Ichingwa, founder of Western Stone Enterprises.

During a visit, Kebs officers inspect the producer’s raw materials, hygiene and storage facilities. They also take samples of the food products for testing and quality assurance officers the compile a report on suitability for human consumption.

- African Laughter