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Government presses local exporters to certify goods

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Officials claim inspecting and certifying goods will help build Cambodia's brand image, but producers say the move is little more than a money-making scam

TRACEY SHELTON

Cambodian exporters say the certification system being pressed by the government will eat into profits while failing to improve quality.

OFFICIALS from the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy on Monday urged manufacturers to apply for product certification to improve export quality during a meeting with manufacturing industry officials.

Ith Praing, secretary of state for the Ministry of Industry, told a group of about 100 sector representatives that they could obtain certificates through the ministry's Department of Industrial Standards of Cambodia (DISC).

DISC received accreditation in March as a review body from Norwegian Accreditation, a Norway-based organisation that offers accreditation for various certification bodies, he said.

"Accreditation is vital for producers in promoting their goods  to regional and international markets," Ith Praing said.

He said that factories and handicraft businesses needed to upgrade the quality of export goods to promote Cambodia's reputation abroad.

He added that certified products will carry a sticker or seal on their packaging to show that they have been inspected and approved.

"Cambodia became a World Trade Organization member in 2004. [Nearly] five years on, the country has received no significant advantage from it, especially in the export sector," said Pong Sivlay, director of DISC, during the meeting.

He said Cambodian products have not conformed to  international standards and that the country has lacked a proper compliance mechanism.

Accreditation is vital for producers in promoting their goods.

"From now on, DISC can issue product certification to show that Cambodian goods meet the necessary quality standards for international trade," Pong Sivlay said.

But Puk Leakreasey, president of the Khmer Natural Handicraft, which produces wine and vinegar from palm juice, said Monday he has little interest in the program because the government has inspired no confidence in it. Officials, he said, use it as a pretext to bilk companies for extra money.

Some products that carry the accreditation seal fail to meet quality standards, he said.

"I think implementing the program without a thorough evaluation [of products] is useless," Puk Leakreasey said.

"If they want their standards recognised locally and internationally, they must focus on technical issues rather than money."

Pong Sivlay denied that the program exists merely to collect money.

"For product accreditation, a company is required to pay only US$100 per product for three years [accreditation]. We do not charge anything beyond this, so the allegation is groundless," he said.

Pong Sivlay said 31 companies have been accredited through the program.

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