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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Friday, July 29, 2005

Sri Lanka Accreditation Board: A boon for local exporters

Daily News: 29/07/2005" BY MANJARI Peiris

TODAY, Sri Lanka is faced with the problem of getting its products sold in the international market, due to their quality even if their prices are low.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Prof. Tissa Vitarana, presented a Bill in Parliament in May 2005, to provide for the establishment of the Sri Lanka Accreditation Board for Conformity Assessment, and to provide for connected matters.

Accordingly, The Sri Lanka Accreditation Board for Conformity Assessment will be set up soon.

The Minister explained; "In the context of the open economy and globalisation, products from various countries compete with each other. In this competition, the ones that are of a lower price can capture the market only if their quality is also equal to or better than other products.

In this context the developed countries find it difficult to produce goods cheaper than those from developing countries where the labour cost is less.

Therefore to remove this competition to the products of the developed countries that are under threat it has been decided to make quality the main issue and to prevent the products from the Third World countries reaching their market on the basis that our quality is not good enough.

Thus the European Union countries have decided that from January 1, 2006 no products from Sri Lanka or developing countries can enter their market unless they get certification to show that they conform to ISO (International Standards Organisation) quality. Thus even our tea might not be able to be sold in Britain or in other EU countries from this date.

1. All products on the market should conform to quality standards.

2. The SLSI has established some national standards and issues the SLS mark as an indication of good quality.

3. However, foreign countries do not accept this.

4. Developed countries insist on ISO standards and in some cases their own standards.

5. Thus the laboratories in Sri Lanka which want to test products for the foreign market have to;

a. Conform with ISO standards

b. Get certification from a National Accreditation Board in a foreign country (example, Sweden), which is accepted by the international community as conforming to the ISO standards.

These Accreditation Bodies of developed countries and a few developing countries are members of the International Accreditation Forum.

6. But to get accreditation by a recognized foreign National Accreditation Body is very expensive - for example, SLSI and ITI laboratories have to pay for a limited number of tests more than one million rupees or even two million rupees.

7. As a result, the cost has to be passed on to any laboratory in Sri Lanka that needs to be accredited and this sends up the cost of their products making it difficult for the laboratory to compete in the foreign market.

8. By setting up a Sri Lanka Accreditation Board once this is recognized by the International Accreditation Forum, it will be possible for this body to give accreditation to local laboratories at one twentieth of the cost or even less, and this can be done quickly.

9. Both the Government and the private laboratories can then get the benefit of this and develop, so that all our export products can have the requisite ISO certification.

Implementation thirteen members appointed to the Governing Board of Sri Lanka Accreditation Board will take the control of this body. They are;

* Three members of the Ministry of Science and Technology

* One from Sri Lanka Standards Institution

* One from the Institutions belonging to the Ministry of Science and Technology

* One from the Ministry of Agriculture

* One from the Treasury

* One from the Ministry of Trade

* One from the Ministry of Industries

* One from the Ministry of Health

* One from the Department of Meteorology

* One from the National Academy of Science

* One from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The day-to-day activities of this body will be carried out by the staff appointed at senior management level, which includes those who have the knowledge and experience in quality management.

Thirty members have been already trained in different disciplines for this purpose in Sweden and they are ready to be appointed.

They include chemists and microbiologists. Activities of this body will commence soon. Sweden has agreed to send their trained staff, if there is a shortage of staff here for assessment.

The importance of this body consists in the fact that if the laboratories get accreditation of this body, then they may earn more income, as people will rely on them for the quality of the product. But there will not be any compulsion from the Government to obtain membership of this body.

This will be done completely on a decision taken by them on a voluntary basis.

Rs. 10 million has already been allocated for this project by the previous budget. The opposition was very supportive towards this Bill.

Prof. G. L. Peiris (UNP) and Bimal Rathnayake (JVP), parliamentarians, have made some comments and amendments in this regard.

The House is very supportive because they have realised the importance of this Bill. The Accreditation Board has to be a very independent body, amid any type of pressure. Anyone can apply for accreditation. Private and Government laboratories can do tests.

There is a process and there will be inspection organisations for certification. The AB delegates these tasks to different organisations who can be private or public. The body will be located at the previous office of the Ministry of Science & Technology.

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