Conflicts in provincial, federal laws hamper food sector’s growth – The News

LAHORE: Provincial laws for food sector contrast and sometimes overlap what have been promulgated at the national level by the federal government, slowing down investment and innovation in a key economic sector, industry sources said on Wednesday.

The sources said the Punjab Food Authority (PFA) and other provincial authorities have promulgated provincial food standards, which are in conflict with the laws defined by the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA).

They said power to legislate merchandise marks, inter-provincial commerce, international trade, standards of exportable goods and regulatory authorities, falls within the scope of the federal parliament, which enacted PSQCA Act and PSQCA.

A senior official of ministry of science and technology told The News that federal government has frequently taken up this issue with the provincial governments and also held two high-level meetings in the recent past. Sources said there has been no follow-up of the ministry’s meeting held on June 19. Particularly, enforcement issue is still to be resolved.

The sources said the Punjab government agreed to work with federal government to harmonise food standards, but the progress is very slow. The provincial government also constituted a committee, headed by the provincial food minister to resolve the issue.

Last week, the tussle between the centre and the provincial government took an ugly turn when PSQCA had to announce jurisdiction of the authority through a public notice.

The authority said processed and packed food items, licenced by PSQCA, are not required to be registered with PFA as PSQCA Act is a federal law, which is above the provincial law.

The senior officials of Punjab government, including PFA’s director general and provincial food minister are tightlipped over the issue and did not comment on discrepancy related to food sector in provincial and federal laws.

The sources said the centre asked the Punjab government to take steps for harmonising food sector’s regulations with a view to end variations in quality standards and overlapping of conformity mechanism that is marring the country’s investment climate.

Food companies are also confused about which standards to follow. Particularly, standards variations and overlapping of conformity assessment mechanisms are hurting business environment in Punjab, the sources added.

The conflicting food laws and different regimes are also impacting the rollout of innovative products.  “Lack of clarity is an impediment to the launch of new products, which could gradually result in shrinkage of food industry as new investment dries up,” an industry official said.

“In order to ensure consistency in standards, quality and competitiveness, food-related legislation should be harmonised through one national law developed with consensus of all stakeholders, including federal and provincial governments and private sector.”

Industry officials said such harmonised legislation will ensure food quality and standards to protect health of consumers and facilitate domestic and external trade. Provincial government seems paying little attention to the food sector’s plight, they added.

© 2012 Overseas Investors Chambers of Commerce and Industry
The Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce & Industry (OICCI) serves as the national point of reference for foreign investors in Pakistan. Established in 1860 as the Karachi Chamber of Commerce, it is the oldest of the existing chambers.