UNBS Gets Mobile Labs to Enhance Product Testing Speed

The testing of the products has often been delayed because of the movement of samples from the production sites to the UNBS testing labs in Kireka, which led to more expenses on the part of the producers.
ED Ebiru receives textile tetsing equipment and mobile lab from PSFU

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The Uganda National Bureau of Standards is set to start mobile laboratory testing for selected products. The products include masks and Personal Protective Equipment for medical workers, which are authorized by the government in the fight against COVID 19.

The testing of the products has often been delayed because of the movement of samples from the production sites to the UNBS testing labs in Kireka, which led to more expenses on the part of the producers.

Now, UNBS will be able to test the products from anywhere, thanks to a donation of equipment by the Private Sector Foundation Uganda in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation. According to UNBS the equipment also includes maize grain and flour quality testing machines.

UNBS Executive Director, David Livingstone Ebiru says that they will now be able to test all textile products produced in Uganda, as well as leather products like shoes, bags and belts which have until now not undergone effective standard regulations. This, he adds, will help in the bid to support the COVID-19 recovery and resilience amongst Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises as the process for them will be quicker and less costly.

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Ebiru says the equipment received can also test for the presence of the dreaded aflatoxin which has recently threatened the Uganda grain export markets. Earlier this year, Kenya threatened to ban Uganda’s maize over aflatoxins, but the move was called off after talks, and Kenyan authorities instead issued stricter conditions on the importation of the product.

The maize-testing equipment can also cater for other contaminants in grain and flour, including those that can count bacteria numbers and measure their volumes.

“The equipment received includes an automatic colony counter for microbiological analysis; aflatoxin reader/kits and portable moisture meters for grain field-testing and a washing machine for personal protective equipment (PPE) testing (including masks),” Ebiru says. He added that the mobile testing capacity reduces turnaround time and increases the speed with which the Certificate of Analysis is completed to support businesses in getting the quality mark.

This comes as a relief to grain exporters who were decrying the strict and lengthy process of testing and certifying the products before they are allowed to cross the borders. Some said they were spending as long as two weeks at the border awaiting the results of the sample tests, which disrupts the market planning.

UNBS says the new equipment is a boost to UNBS Laboratory testing capacity by enabling mobile testing of samples in the field, in addition to the fixed laboratory testing done at the UNBS headquarters in Bweyogerere.

“We can now undertake mobile tests most especially for Aflatoxins within the maize value chain at the warehouses and millers’ premises. This will help us to increase the outreach to maize dealers across the country as opposed to them bringing the samples to the fixed laboratory equipment at standards house,” Said Mr David Livingstone Ebiru.

The Grain Council of Uganda says the slow process of testing and certifying is over of the main issues affecting the market because sometimes, by the time the process is done, the market conditions have changed, leading to losses.

“Grain is a 12 billion Shillings per day business. This requires faster processes. Traders need the testing because it gives the market confidence in the product you are selling to them,” says Chris Kaijuka, the Board Chairman, Grain Council of Uganda.

Francis Kisirinya, the Acting PSFU Executive Director says industries that sprung up due to covid-19 took the regulators by surprise, and therefore, there was no capacity to test the product standard. 

He says that there is a double advantage in the donation because the equipment to be used to test the standards of face masks can be used to test the textile quality.

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