So far, just six of the 32 bottled water brands across the country have secured a quality compliance certificate
Aimed at insuring compliance to the mandatory standards the government has set for the manufacturers of packed mineral water, the Ethiopian Conformity Assessment Enterprise (ECAE) has announced that only six of the 32 bottled mineral water brands in the market have so far under gone laboratory testing and inspection, thereby securing a quality compliance certificate.
The certification, which enables the bottlers to print qualification marks on the labelling of their products, has been given to - Great Abyssinia Plc, the bottler of Abyssinia spring water; Asku Plc, bottler of Aqauaddis spring water; Yes Brands Food & Beverage Plc, bottler of Yes spring water; Herbal Trade & Industry Plc, bottler of SPA water, Eden Business S.C, bottler of Eden water and Origin Food & Beverage Factory, the bottler of Origin water.
SPA water secured the compliance licence before the announcement was made last Wednesday, August 20, 2014, according to Tekea Berhane, Corporate Communication & Service head at the ECAE. YES spring water was awarded with the certificate at the beginning of the previous month, according to Alemu Tesfaye, marketing manager of Yes Brands.
The application for the certification was initiated by the bottlers following the five month limit set by the Ministry of Trade (MoT) within which the producers have to secure their license, according to Tekea.
Bottled mineral water is one of 57 products, for which the MoT has adopted mandatory standards to which the products and production process has to comply, according to a document from the MoT that provides a list of Ethiopian Mandatory Standards.
Cotton fibre and cotton yarn, fertilisers, coffee, alcoholic beverages, oil seeds, iron and steel products, matches, construction materials, edible salt and food additives are among the products listed.
The standards were prepared by the National Standards Authority (NSA) and approved by the Ethiopian National Standardisation Council (ENSC) before becoming law after enactment by Parliament in 2013.
The fact that the rest of the bottlers are not certified does not mean that the water is not up to standard though, according to Tekea. This is because they first provide assurance that their product will be of quality when they get production certificates, he says.
The Ministry has provided the bottlers with awareness on the requirements and advice on the manner in which bottled water should be made, so that they can comply with the standards, which are mandatory for water, according to Ali Siraj, state minister for Trade.
"They have to publish quality marks with their labelling," he says. "This ensures that the water is up to the standard required for the sector."
The five-month period was given a month before considering the time it takes to inspect the production process on site and to investigate the product at the laboratory to check whether the products comply with the parameters set by law, said Ali.
The period set also takes into consideration the time it takes the bottlers to print the labelling on their products, since they get the printing services from abroad, he said.
There is also one other bottled water undergoing investigation at the laboratory of the Agency, according to Takea.
In cases where the product or the production process is found not to be in compliance with the standards, the producers are given time to rectify the gap within a specified time limit, according to Takea.
"If the producers are found not to be complying with the order of rectification, the factory may be shut down," he said.
The producers have paid an unspecified amount of money to get the service at the Agency, which is a public enterprise, but the amount is set in such a way as to cover the expenses of chemicals and operational costs, says Takea.
"The strict regulation of the sector has come after efforts to make them comply with the standards at their own willingness," Ali told Fortune. "It is to ensure that they fulfil their obligation."
"This is to ensure that the standardisation is not a barrier to business, but a facilitator," according to Takea.
Left with less than four months to get their products inspected through the assessment service provided by the Agency, the rest of the bottlers, including those in the market in different regions and cities, will face strict measures after the expiry of the time period, according to the authorities. Failure to comply could lead to the banning of the products, according to Ali.