Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) is “mandated to ensure fairness in trade and to enforce standards in protection of public health, safety and environment through market surveillance and sensitization”, so it is written on the UNBS website. You see, I was prompted to visit the UNBS website because of my experience of the level of impurities in the cereals on farmers’ markets in Uganda.
Yesterday, for example, I bought a kilogram of dried beans from the Bugolobi Market. I decided to prepare about a quarter of the beans for lunch. So, knowing that there are usually some impurities – I decided to do a quick sort-the-impurities session before I soak the beans.
It is understandable that some impurities will be missed by the produce sellers, but increasingly in the case of Uganda I think that the produce sellers deliberately include impurities in the produce. This they apparently do in order to inflate the weight of the produce – as in instead of rigging the weighing scale, they ensure the produce is heavy.
The size of some of the stones that I sorted out of the beans were bigger than the bean seeds, so how in the world did the produce seller from whom I bought the beans miss them? Obviously problematic bean seeds that are difficult to miss, if one does a sort-the-impurities session, were also part of the impurities which the produce seller from whom I bought the beans apparently missed?
By the way, the stones in the beans were easy to miss at the point of the weighing scale, because for some reason they are a similar colour to the beans. It seems that produce sellers actually go out of their way to find the right-colour stones to include in the produce in order to ensure that it is heavy.
Shockingly, even when I thought that I had succeeded in taking out all the impurities from the beans, when I was eating the cooked beans I came across a smaller stone which I had missed. Yes, as I chewed, my teeth had the misfortune to think they were chewing soft beans. And yes, I had a guest for lunch, but mercifully, the portion of beans they put on their plate did not have stones.
So now, let us connect the dots. UNBS by the look of things it seems like you are not offering value for money for Ugandan tax payers. Or is it I who have misunderstood your mandate. Certainly once in a while I have seen fuel guzzler monster cars with your logo on them moving about town, but now I ask doing what?
Once in a while I have read stories of how certain imported food items that are filled with impurities and are therefore unfit for human consumption have entered the Uganda market and UNBS is ‘doing the best as it can’ to ban them from shelves, or something or rather. But I ask UNBS, how did those poisonous goods come in the country in the first place?
Anyway, back to the point of cereals in Uganda’s farmers markets. I would expect that the role of the UNBS would be to ensure that home grown Ugandan products meet quality standards for the Uganda domestic market first and then for the export market.
Now you can imagine, I am contemplating that next time I want to eat beans, I will go and buy them from a supermarket, which may not necessarily sell Ugandan beans – as in I will have to buy imported dried beans? What?
While I despair, for judging from the quality of their website, the competence of UNBS to enforce standards is questionable, I still ask, what is the role of UNBS in relation to Uganda’s farmers markets – are we, tax payers, getting value for money from UNBS?