1- PRIME QUALITY TIN PLATES FOR FOOD PACKAGING
2-
ACTION PLAN FOR OILSEED PRODUCTION
3-
WB REPORT ON PAKISTAN
4-
IS SUGAR BEET AN ALTERNATE TO SUGARCANE
5-
ORGANIC MANURING AND AGRICULTURE

 

PRIME QUALITY TIN PLATES FOR FOOD PACKAGING

 

The use of non-food grade tinplates for making containers for packing food items should be termed a crime against the society at large

 

By SHABBIR H. KAZMI
Nov 18 - 24, 2002

 

It has been discovered only recently that containers for packing of food containers are being made from secondary (not suitable for packing food) tinplates in Pakistan. While locally made prime quality tinplates are available, the prevailing duty structure for imported secondary encourages its use. Imposition of regulatory duty or changing the duty structure cannot discourage use of imported secondary. The only solution is prohibiting the use of secondary for packing food products.

While manufacturing of ghee and edible oil was mainly done at state-owned units, the containers were mostly fabricated from prime quality tinplates. This was facilitated by the government by following cost plus approach. With the shift from manufacturing of ghee and edible oil from public sector to private sector, it was believed that the manufacturers would follow the same practice. There were often complaints from the consumers that ghee and edible oil was being supplied in rusted containers. However, the relevant authorities did not pay any attention.

With the commencement of production of tinplates in Pakistan and persistent loss making, the sponsors of the project approached the government for some remedial steps to check and control dumping of tinplates in the country. The government imposed the regulatory duty on imported tinplates which created a lot of hue and cry by the importers and consumers of tinplates. The trade termed the step as 'unjustified step' to protect the only tinplate manufacturing plant operating in the country. Even the government succumbed to this pressure and withdrew the regulatory duty.

According to the available information, the country consumes about 200,000 tonnes of tinplates annually. Ghee and edible oil manufacturing companies are the largest consumers of tinplates, about 80 per cent of the total quantity consumed in the country. It was also found, subsequently, that almost all the quantity of imported tinplates fall under the classification of secondary. It was an alarming revelation because use of secondary, for making containers for food packing, is extremely harmful for human beings. This practice has been going on in the country right under the nose of health authorities.

Ensuring use of prime quality tinplates is a must and just cannot be compromised only because it may affect a few. The import of secondary has proliferated because of two factors: 1) inability of the customs authorities to identify that non-food grade tinplates were being imported and 2) practice of under-invoicing followed by tinplates importers. The trade can be alleged for committing two crimes simultaneously: selling non-food grade tinplates for making containers for food items and 2) evading duties and taxes for many years.

According to an investigation made by National Tariff Commission confirms the fact. It says, "The exporters never recommended grades A, B, C and D of tinplates exported by them to Pakistan for food packing. All the contracts for these exports were made without product specification and quality assurance certificate. However, after the product is exported, MISA has no control on the buyers and the buyers can use the product sold for any purpose. MISA stated that tinplates exported to Pakistan during the period of investigation was not fit for use in food packing."

It is understood that prices of tinplates imported in the country have hovered around US$ 300 per tonne. This is a price normally charged for secondary tinplates. Some sector experts say even this price was understated. Till recently customs authorities were charging 35 per cent duty at a predetermined price (valuation price) of US$ 300 per tone. Interestingly, even after the government reduced the duty rate to 30 per cent and proceedings were going on against imposition of regularity duty, the imports continued much below the prevailing international prices of secondary tinplates.

It is suspected that bulk of the imported tinplates even does not fall under non-food grade but can only be termed 'scrap'. Use of these tinplates is not suitable for packing food products. The authorities must wake up, ensure use of only prime quality tinplates for manufacturing containers for food products and also investigate and prosecute all those who are found guilty of committing under invoicing and tax evasion. It is not a favour to local tinplates manufacturer but a duty which they have not been discharging.

LOCAL MANUFACTURING

Siddiqsons Tin Plate Limited is the first and the only tinplate manufacturing company in Pakistan. The unit was established in 1999 in collaboration with Sollac of France and Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan. The plant has an installed capacity to produce 120,000 tonnes of tinplates per annum. Tinplates are produced under Ferrostan process technology developed by the US Steel, a process being used by about 77 per cent of the world tinplate producers. Siddiqsons produces prime and food grade tinplates.