MBS Yet to Be Notified on Govt Intent to Import Controversial Fertilizer
In our continuing investigations into the fertilizer import scam, we have found that the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) has yet to register an intention by either Ministry of Agriculture or East Bridge Estates to import fertilizers into Malawi.
Responding to a written inquiry from Zodiak on the matter, MBS says the law requires that once intention to import is registered, the bureau expects to receive a reshipment sample from the manufacturer for pretesting in line with relevant Malawi Standards before the actual importation is done.
Our information on the East Bridge fertilizers from Turkey destined for Malawi, which was earlier expected in end June, is that it shall hit a port in Mozambique mid-July. It is highly unlikely, therefore, that samples for pretesting were shipped by manufacturer.
The Malawi Bureau of Standards has told Zodiak that no intention to import fertilizers has yet been registered as required by either Ministry of Agriculture or East Bridge Est.
The MBS has neither received a reshipment sample from manufacturers for pretesting as required by Malawi Standards. Meanwhile, we hear, first consignment should be on the way from Turkey.
We sought a comment from MBS Public Relations Officer Monica Khombe on whether by law the bureau would be involved where a ministry was to import 600, 000 tons of fertilizers.
“Yes. The MBS would be interested in ensuring that the fertilizers coming into Malawi meet particular quality requirements based on relevant Malawi Standards for fertilizers. The MBS will, therefore, require that the one importing the fertilizers go through relevant procedures based on the Import Quality Monitoring Regulations to get assurance that these requirements are met,” she said.
The MBS assures us that by law all fertilizers being imported into Malawi ought to meet specifications as stipulated in relevant Malawi Standards for fertilizers.
In the past, Khombe says MBS has been involved in the importation of AIP fertilizers and some importers brought pre-shipment samples for analysis before importation of fertilizer consignment.
She, however, says MBS has not been involved in the deal between Agriculture and East Bridge Estate.
“Not yet, MBS is involved when the intention to import is registered with MBS. That is when MBS must receive a reshipment sample from the manufacturer for pretesting against relevant Malawi Standards,” she added.
One month away from the arrival of the first batch of the fertilizers, we spoke to agriculture minister, Sam Kawale, on how his ministry has arranged to ensure that the East Bridge fertilizers conform to Malawi Standards.
He said he would be reaching out to MBS to find out but acknowledged that once a company is awarded a contract, the supplier sends tests to MBS to make sure the quality meets Malawi Standards.
This has not been done.
“Here is how it works. Once a company is awarded a contract, the supplier sends tests to MBS to make sure the quality meets our standards. MBS clears them and then they are allowed to ship. Another option is for the supplier to get a certificate from SGS. MBS does further checks at the border when the cargo arrives to verify if the samples sent or SGS certificates match,” Kawale said.
MBS pre-certification of imports, MBS says, is a requirement for trade partners, government agencies and for benefit of citizens irrespective of whether commodities are for humanitarian or trade purposes
For importers, whose brands are new to the Malawian market, says MBS, they are supposed to call for pre-shipment samples and be covered by mandatory standards.
The fertilizer deal between the Ministry of Agriculture and East Bridge Estates of Romania has sparked a lot of public debate, largely because of the manner in which the deal was struck and approved by the cabinet.
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