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Workers bundle packaged goods into plastic bags
Workers bundle packaged goods into plastic bags at the LYLY Food Industry Company factory in Phnom Penh in 2013. Vireak Mai

Overhaul for quality control

Thailand has agreed to assist Cambodia in installing a National Accreditation System (NAS) to ensure all Cambodia-made products meet ASEAN and international quality standards as the Kingdom prepares for regional integration at the end of the year.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts (MIH) and Thailand’s Ministry of Industry signed an agreement in Phnom Penh yesterday to commence designing the new system.

Under the agreement, Thailand’s National Standardization Council will work with the MIH’s Department of Accreditation to assess the capabilities of Cambodia’s independent accreditation bodies.

All Cambodian-made products, from garments, rice, locally produced snacks to even bottled water, require a level of accreditation when packaged and sold domesticity or for export.

Cham Prasidh, the minister of industry and handicrafts, said the national accreditation body is needed to ensure that companies and agencies that provide product certification services are equipped to do so and are operating to the highest standards.

“Certifying companies or laboratories have to be certified by us to do this job,” he said. “Since we are new and inexperienced in the field, we are using the support from accreditation system experts from Thailand to teach us and train us in certifying so the accreditation assessment bodies all conform,” he added.

Both countries also agreed to share information using a single platform, meaning that any accreditation assessment company can apply for recognition from both the National Accreditation Body in Thailand and in Cambodia by paying an additional fee.

“The cooperation will not only provide confidence that the accreditation results would be recognised at international level but also will conform with national legislation and regulations of Cambodia and Thailand,” said Chakramon Phasukavanich, Thailand’s minister of industry.

Currently, Cambodia’s accreditation system and laboratories are under the oversight of the MIH, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Public Health. The newly established Department of Accreditation under the MIH will now serve as the single government oversight body.

“Success in international trade requires access to services of metrology, standardisation, testing, and quality management; accreditation and certification systems,” said Andrea Ulbrich, project coordinator of Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) Asia, a German quality assurance body.

“Even if the degree of industrialisation is low, a functioning QI [quality infrastructure] system is necessary to ensure the basic requirements of consumer, health and environmental protection.”

Ly Visal, office manager of the Federation of the Associations for Small and Medium Enterprises of Cambodia (FASMEC), said currently SMEs rely on foreign accreditation services to provide certification.

“The cost is so high to use a foreign accreditation service agency,” Visal said. “We have to cover accommodation in addition to the service. If there is local accreditation service, it will help reduce the cost and it will encourage more SMEs to have their products certified for standards and quality.”

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