Expired goods infiltrate Yemeni market
Counterfeit goods have their own customers and are popular among Yemenis. Sellers know that impoverished Yemenis prefer these goods because they cost less, according to Yassen Al-Tamimi, a researcher in the field of environment and consumer protection.
Al-Tamimi said the Standardization, Metrology and Quality Control Authority’s declarations about holding large quantities of dates that don’t conform to standards indicates ugly practices of merchants that have never happened before.
“In the previous years, the unsold dates remained in stores for next year,” he said. “Then they are mixed with the newly imported dates, and tea is added to them in order to make them attractive.”
Al-Tamimi said these practices are applied to all goods with increased demands during Ramadan such as oil, milk, flour and sugar.
China is the largest industrial country with counterfeit products that flood Yemeni markets. It surpassed other countries such as India and Taiwan in this field.
Waleed No’man, a member of the Yemeni Industrialists Association, said new merchants are young men and sons of former officials. They own money, but they lack human conscience. He said those merchants import food supplies, toys and medicine from China.
Al-Tamimi said the problem isn’t linked to importing goods with low quality.
“Unsold goods are being stored in bad conditions, which cause their expiration,” he said. “But greedy merchants don’t give up and try to find a suitable solution. For example, if wheat decays, they grind it and sell it to consumers.”
No’man said a lack of consumer knowledge among Yemenis makes them easy prey for selling expired and counterfeit goods.
Sometimes, he said, people resort to buying expired goods because of low income.
“The expired and counterfeit goods, particularly food and raw materials, contain poison materials, and sometimes these goods are being made locally, which effects the national economy negatively,” No’man said.
Yemen is considered one of the ten poorest countries in the world, where poverty rates reach 60 percent to 70 percent. Therefore, the ability to buy high quality goods is low, so people resort to buying goods that aren’t up to standard.
Ahmed Saeed Shamakh, an economic expert, said Yemen depends on imported goods from abroad by 90 percent and on local production of goods by 10 percent. Moreover, counterfeit goods and nearly expired goods represent approximately 60 percent to 70 percent of the market.
Yemen has a coastline of about 2,500 square kilometers and land entrances, making the accusation direct toward concerned bodies charged with watching these borders and entrances.
“The reason behind that is the rampant corruption and false economic policies,” Shamakh said.
Al-Tamimi said that in the previous period, there was cooperation between importers and decision makers.
“Senior merchants have a strong lobby in the government, and so we faced many problems in combating practices done by some merchants,” he said.
Al-Tamimi said that the Consumers Protection Association is among the associations unwelcomed by government authorities because it fails to fulfill its responsibilities. The government is bothered by the association’s declarations about counterfeit and expired goods in Yemeni markets, he said.
Absence of control and censorship
No’man said he questions Standardization, Metrology and Quality Control Authority’s role, which is to oversee what happens in markets. He described the procedures taken by the authority as unsuitable due to a lack of labs used for checking samples before giving approval for goods to enter to the country, particularly if these goods quickly expire.
No’man said there are negative effects to not having enough labs.
“Once, the authority took a sample of sauce cans arriving in Hodeida port to be checked in the Central Laboratory in Sana’a,” he said.
The samples took 14 days to check, which caused expiry of the sauce due to high temperatures. The authority requested the merchant to send it back to the source, but he couldn’t. Therefore, he was allowed to sell it in markets with low prices.”
Shamakh said there are extortion practices against consumers. In spite of issuing statements and declarations either by official or private authorities, the expired and counterfeit goods increased in local markets.
“People buy these goods because they don’t know about them or because of low income. The declarations and statements don’t affect these goods due to lack of effective censorship. Even cancer, kidney failure and stunting patients are being treated with counterfeit medicine that causes death.”
The Standardization, Metrology and Quality Control Authority said it is doing its best to control the spread of expired goods and to make consumers aware, according to Abu Al-Hassan Al-Nehari, director of the authority’s Quality Control Department.
“The authority launched its second awareness-oriented campaign in Ramadan to boost awareness among consumers and merchants when buying and selling and introducing them to the most important specifications of the goods demanded in Ramadan,” Al-Nehari said.
Doctor Mohammed Al-Asbahi, director of the Environment Health Authority, said the authority works according to food censorship law. The work of the authority starts by checking goods by the Standardization and Metrology Authority before entering the country.
“Our role is to watch markets and visit markets daily to look for expired goods and destroy them,” Al-Asbahi said.
Al-Tamimi said it is important to provide the authority with money to adopt the program of issuing a certificate of goods in the country of origin and also to sign agreements with labs in these countries to check the goods before sending them, instead of checking them in Aden or Sana’a, which takes time.