My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: BSJ's NCRA Standardized packaging of Flour and Rice heralds more packaged products

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

BSJ's NCRA Standardized packaging of Flour and Rice heralds more packaged products

“A good package should provide a barrier against dirt and other contaminants, thus keeping the product clean. It should protect food against physical and chemical damage, for example, the harmful effects of air, light, insects, and rodents, and it should help the customers to identify the food, instruct them how to use it correctly as well as inform them when it was manufactured and when it expires,”

Director of the Standards Division at the BSJ Mrs. Julia Bonner on packaging standards for rice and flour

So you though only sugar was getting a makeover. The BSJ (Bureau of Standards Jamaica) isn't done yet as they seek to standardize packaging for many common Jamaican staples.

Now they're after rice and flour as pointed out in the article “BSJ Reviewing Packaging Standards For Flour And Rice”, published Monday June 18, 2018, The Jamaica Gleaner.

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But first, a look at the packaging of sugar, which is much improved and which I must say is quite welcome. So how did the packaging of sugar get standardized? Will it be the same for rice, flour and cornmeal?

Jamaican Retail of Sugar - Standardized packaging enforced by the BSJ's NCRA

The Jamaican Government had introduced new packaging standards for granulated and brown sugar in July 2017. Since July 1, 2017, all sugar sold to the public has to be:

1.      Packaged
2.      Sealed
3.      Labelled

This prevents retailers from distributing sugar in unlabelled polythene bags, a tradition that many shopkeepers started and larger retailers and supermarkets followed.

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Now, the sugar must be bagged at approved plants and conform to labeling standards. The new rules require that packagers be registered with the National Compliance and Regulatory Authority, a unit of Bureau of Standards Jamaica.

So far only six (6) companies have been approved so far to package sugar bound for the retail market:

1.      Caribbean Depot for Jamaica Gold, Golden Grove, and Eve brands on behalf of their respective owners
2.      Cost Club Limited for MegaMart
3.      DK Processors Jamaica Limited for the Diamond Krystal and Paradise brands
4.      Hi-Lo Food Stores for the Hi-Lo brand of brown sugar
5.      Lloyds Manufacturing Company Limited for the May's, Grace and Secrets brands
6.      Palm Rose Limited for Royal Rose

This new packaging is the result of previous work by the BSJ in getting sugar producers to comply with their new guidelines set back in July 2017 as reported in the article “Pre-Packaged Sugar must be Appropriately Labelled”, published June 23, 2017 By Alecia Smith, The Jamaica Information Service.

Not only must all packagers be registered with the NCRA, but as of the revised mandatory standards for brown cane sugar, gazetted on December 30, 2016, which outlined the requirements for labelling, packaging and safety of sugar, possible fines and prison terms are possible.

The Standards Act provides for a fine of $3 million and 12 months in prison for non-compliance with the labelling and packaging standards for sugar sold in the retail market.

The new packaging, which is more secure than just weighing and placing the sugar into plastic bags, also give information on the product as follows:

1.      Product name
2.      Brand name
3.      Net content
4.      Name and address of manufacturers
5.      Name and address of distributors
6.      Name and address of importers
7.      Name and address of vendors
8.      Storage conditions
9.      Country of origin
10.  Lot identification
11.  Date markings
12.  Instructions for use

This information has greatly improved the traceability of the product. So how has this affected the sugar producers? And when will these changes begin to affect rice, flour and cornmeal? And are other products commonly eaten by Jamaicans soon to have their packaging standardized?

BSJ and Standardized packaging – Jamaicans love Packaged sugar

This has, at least in my eyes, made sugar more attractive and safer, as I'd pointed out in my blog article entitled “Why Ministry of Agriculture and BSJ Branded Sugar Packaging and Labelling protects the Jamaican Consumer

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There were some teething pains, mainly to do with producing the packaging, which was expensive, while ensuring that the price of the product remained competitive as noted in the article “Stand Firm On Sugar Packaging And Labelling – Pandohie”, published Monday September 25, 2017 by Mark Titus, The Jamaica Gleaner

The public agrees, as they just couldn't get enough of it as was evidence by the shortage of packaged sugar in August 2017 as noted in the article “Demand For Packaged Sugar Takes Marketers By Surprise - Three Weeks Needed To Cover Shortfall”, published Wednesday August 23, 2017 by Avia Collinder, The Jamaica Gleaner

The distributors of bulk sugar experience a 60% increase in demand for the packaged 0.5 kg of sugar in the new packaging. These main distributors of bulk sugar were as follows:

1.      JCPS
2.      Seprod's Golden Grove Limited
3.      Pan Caribbean Sugar Company Limited

JCPS and Seprod are also suppliers of their own branded retail sugar, with JCPS's retail sugar being packaged by Caribbean Depot Limited. JCPS represents the following sugar factories

1.      Monymusk
2.      Appleton
3.      Worthy Park

JCPS accounts for 55% of the Sugar cane crop and as such get 55% of the market for local sales. At this point a diagram is in order to tie all this info together.

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So will it be the same for rice, flour and cornmeal? What other products will possibly have to be properly packaged and labled?

BSJ is Standardizing product packaging - Flour, Rice, Cornmeal and other product on their Radar

A similar relationship between Manufacturers of Rice, Flour and Cornmeal, Packaging companies and Brands would have to be developed to make the process go smoothly.

Of course, consumers will have to be encouraged to buy the packaged products instead of those doled out in polythene plastic bags as emphasized by Director of the Standards Division at the BSJ Mrs. Julia Bonner, quote: “Once the BSJ develops the new standard requirements for these items, it will become mandated through the operations of the National Compliance & Regulatory Authority ()”.

The BSJ and the NCRA are deliberating on the technical standards that need to be implemented to make Rice, Flour and Cornmeal packaged just as safely and traceably as sugar. Consumers will be encouraged to only purchase properly packaged and labled products.

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So look out for not only Rice, Flour and Cornmeal to get packaging on part with sugar but also the following products:

1.      Bulla Cakes
2.      Red Herring
3.      Bag Juice
4.      Salt Mackerel
5.      Red Herring
6.      Breadfruit
7.      Cooked Food
8.      Fruits and Vegetable sold by vendors

Hopefully this will involve packaging that is not plastic. Ironically the use of plastic need to be banned from packaging, being as it is creating a serious problem for Jamaica as I’d pointed out in my blog article entitled “How a Ban on Styrofoam, Plastics needs Recycling Initiative to save the Jamaican Environment”.

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These are just a few and the last bit with the vendors would require them to form a manufacturing cooperative in order to brand and produce their own packaging. But based on the popularity of packaged sugar, I suspect that Jamaican adoption won't be much of a problem. 

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