Manager of YCIC quality section for Globalization & open market [Archives:2004/772/Business & Economy]

September 13 2004

By Mohammed al-hakimi
For the Yemen Times
Taiz Bureau

Jamil Abdul-Majeed Al-Maqtari was born in Taiz in 1969, he has got three children, and studied primary and secondary school education in Hodeidah. After receiving a bachelors degree in the food industry in Baghdad in 1990, he worked for three years at Bajil Food Industry Complex, before joining YCIC in 1994, as a chemical specialist, microbiologist, and then head of the quality section.
He has done an MA degree in the food industry from Baghdad, and is now doing a masters degree in business administration.
Can you tell us the reasons behind your adoption of international quality standards?
There were many factors that drew our attention to the issue of quality, most important of which are the conditions engendered by international changes in the world economy, technology, politics and societies. These changes have made quality a priority in the activities and services of companies.
The pressures of globalization, the trends of the international market, and the demolition of barriers to markets, have necessitated conformity to international standards. As the company's management realized the importance of that, quality standards have been adopted as a matter of policy, incorporating the application of concepts of quality and distinction management, and the introduction of various administrative patterns that foster distinctive performance.
Accordingly, we have been able to live up to the new challenges brought about by the changes. We are, therefore, the first company in Yemen to receive the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certificate. We were also awarded the Arch of Europe certificate in March 2004 in Germany, and the HACCP, which is given for adherence to food safety standards. The company also received ISO 9002 in 1994, and ISO 9001 in 2000. All of these achievements were primarily due to the prudence of the administrators of the company and their realization of the changing requirements, as well as the efforts of staff at all levels.
We know that a great quantity of the company's production is exported. Do you apply quality standards to goods for export, and do exported products face problems?
It is true that the company exports several biscuits products, including child biscuits like Haiati, and Bisci, cakes, wafers, and sweets to Arab and other foreign countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Morocco, Jordan, Iraq, Kenya, Ghinia, Djibouti, and Somalia.
The application of quality standards positively affects the company in the first place by improving the quality and quantity of production, and by manufacturing products that conform to quality standards. It has also become a must, due to the world's changes and the nature of the market, as prescribed by international trade conventions and rules facilitating the movement of trade, and protecting the health of consumers. There are quality systems such as ISO and HACCP. Quality standards are also applied to ensure conformance with local laws such as the application of GMP system.
The quantity of exports is acceptable, and currently represents 10% of total production. The rate is rising though, and is now 60% more than it was in the previous period, as we have explored new markets such as Libya and Taiwan.
National exports, however, face many hurdles such as the frailty of the export infrastructure and dispiriting exportation services. We should also mention the poor promotion of investment activities and difficulties in regaining custom fees on raw materials used in manufacture.
There is no evidence of serious desire to reach agreements with countries that would exempt some Yemeni products from taxation, and there are many governmental bodies, with overlapping responsibilities, that supervise industrial and commercial activities – which causes bureaucratic complications.
We also face difficulties in terms of laws and legislation: they change quickly and some essential laws are not issued. Another problem arises from the slow pace of court proceedings in settling disagreements.
Being the representative of the Yemen Industrialists Association at the National Quality and Standards Committee, are there obstacles to national industry?
Actually, there are a host of difficulties hindering the national industry, including a weak infrastructure, no industrial zones like other countries of the world, and customs that do not deal fairly with local and foreign manufacturers. There are some products on which a 10-15% taxation has been imposed, in some cases this tax rate equals custom fees on imported products, which means that there is no protection for local products.
Local products are costly. We import raw materials and spare parts from abroad. Moreover, electricity is expensive and there are many fees and taxes on local products, including consumption, sale taxes, cleaning and municipality improvement fees.
Yemen is soon going to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), what results are you expecting?
Industry was, and still is, the indispensable strong ground for any country aspiring to attain a strong economy and desiring to activate its development process.
Industrial establishments seem healthy, but we should not ignore the overall fact that they do not reflect the reality of this important sector. Only a limited number of them survived the past years due to their size and distinctive performance. Many other establishments have closed down and sacked their employees.
Joining YTO emphasizes a fundamental commitment to international trade freedom, legitimate and real competition, although, it is almost impossible to keep away from such changes.
The price of the government's sudden and hasty adoption of the new system, without taking the necessary measures or implementing supplementary policies, has been paid by the industrial sector. We are effected by the negative consequences because we went rushing for the WTO without figuring things out first.
The industrial sector's contribution to the gross domestic production had sunk from 12.6% to 6% in 1995.
Joining the WTO may well raise the level of manufacturing quality in some sectors because of dog-eat-dog competition. We should make use of policies that prevent flooding, from which our markets currently suffer.
Being a developing country, Yemen should have mobilized efforts to cope with the dire consequences of joining the WTO.
Being the deputy of the quality and standards committee of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, what kind of support do you provide for local products?
Industrial establishments need a lot of support to be able to do their jobs according to standards prescribed by the WTO.
This support should come from different organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the General Investment Authority, and the Higher Exports Council. Yet the role of these establishments ranges from very limited to nonexistent. They do not meet the needs of the private sector. This may be due to the under-funding of these organizations or the lack of highly-qualified administrative staff. They need to be re-structured so that they can accommodate the current demands of international change. Responsibility for the current situation should be shouldered by both the private sector and the government.
We can currently see the silver lining of the cloud.