Labelling and packaging is a serious barrier affecting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in a bid to perfect their trade. As was identified in the Sierra Leone National AGOA Response Strategy 2019 to 2025, this is dependent on the type of product and the model(s) for access used. “It is important to note that labelling and packaging can also be used as a means to advertise the product. It is therefore important that the labelling and packaging should be of high quality and legible to attract consumers.” That Strategy recommended that overseas trade attachés should be tasked to identify investors in packaging and labelling facilities and establish contact with packaging and labelling facilities in neighbouring countries – there may be an appetite to invest in the production of packaging materials to be used in Sierra Leone. Sheila Snell of SHES Organic trades in local delicacies like, grounded pepper, egusi, okra, groundnut which she processes and sells. But she is currently faced with the challenge of having the right materials to package her products. “As you can see I order these packaging kits from Ghana, you can see my product we do not have any one to buy from, from here except from abroad, labelling and sealing of the products is also a challenge” she said. Joseph Amoateng of Lambano S/L Ltd who is an agro-processing trader in honey garlic, honey-ginger, coconut oil, palmoil, processed local chicken, pepper amongst others said that he has a small outlet along King Street where his products are displayed.
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He sometimes supplies some major supermarkets but has never been opportune to access loan facility. One of the key challenges he was faced with is with the farmers, “we promote pure honey so we do not want any honey that has been mixed with another product. We have been able to tackle that as we now have trusted farmers that we are working with and they make products available on time” he said. On the issue of packing, in order to have access to it locally he said that they have to order for a larger quantity, “since we are starting we do not have the capital, we are able to get smaller quantity from Nigeria and Ghana which is also expensive and that affects the price of the product. But if we can get whatever quantity we want locally it will reduce the cost of our products” he said. Daphne Fobay, Communications Officer at Local Content Agency said that the country is blessed with all the raw materials and they are supporting these SMEs by promoting what they make and it must be owned by them. “We want to build our SMEs talents to design their products to international standard “she said. On her response to the issue of packaging, she said that as a business if they want to improve by getting it attractive, their packaging and labelling should stand out as it will entice people to buy, “we emphasize for them to up there game as we need to showcase our products if we want to live on them” said Fobay. The challenge with packaging and labelling Fobay said, has to do with the lack of expiry dates on some of the products. “Some of the content do not have expiry date, especially for those coming from abroad that is the first thing they look for also they would want to know the content used to make the product. We work with Standards Bureau for testing to ensure that they get the right quality.”
By Zainab Iyamide Joaque & Sulaiman Karim Sesay
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