Cement manufacturers asked to print manufacturing and expiry dates on packaging

  • PSQCA asked to ensure expiry date printing on packaging by CCP
  • Industry challenges issue of unpaid marking fees in court

ISLAMABAD: The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has issued a policy note urging amendments to the Pakistan Standard Specification for all five types of cement. This note recommends mandatory disclosure of manufacturing and expiry dates on cement packaging.

Despite being one of the biggest industries in the country, the cement industry in Pakistan has sidestepped this basic requirement for decades. Cement’s hygroscopic nature makes it susceptible to strength loss, particularly after 4 to 6 weeks of storage. 

The absence of manufacturing and expiry dates on cement bags poses a risk to consumers, potentially leading to the purchase of expired products. Not only is this a deceptive sales practice, but it compromises the integrity of construction projects. The practice is enabled by the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority’s (PSQCA) rules and regulations and allows the cement industry to reduce losses by selling overdue cement.

Currently, all types of cement in Pakistan adhere to packaging standards set by the PSQCA. The introduction of mandatory manufacturing and expiry date disclosures is a small step to empower consumers and foster true competition among brands.

The note by CCP emphasizes the need to align Pakistan’s standards with international labeling practices to ensure consistency and transparency in the domestic market. It also aims to address the disparity between domestic and export labeling requirements, thereby safeguarding the interests of local consumers.

The CCP in its note, has condemned the omission of material information on cement packaging as deceptive marketing and advocates for the mandatory printing of expiry dates to protect consumer interests and promote fair competition within the industry. 

An advisory has been sent to the All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association (APCMA) and its members, urging compliance with the new labeling requirements to prioritize consumer safety and satisfaction.

Unpaid marking fees exceed Rs 4.5 billion

However, not disclosing manufacturing dates is not the only way in which cement manufacturers are deluding Pakistani consumers and authorities. It may be worth mentioning here that during a previous meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and Technology, it was revealed that the cement industry has not paid marking fees to the PSQCA for the past 15 years, resulting in outstanding dues of over Rs 4.5 billion as of June 2022. Despite inclusion in mandatory PSQCA rules as far back as the 1980s and 1990s, the committee noted a lack of payment in fines imposed on cement units.

“Marking fee” here, refers to a fee charged by the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) to cement manufacturers, for affixing the necessary quality marks on their products. These quality marks signify that the products meet the required standards set by the PSQCA. The marking fee is intended to cover the costs associated with quality testing, inspection, and certification processes carried out by the PSQCA to ensure compliance with national quality standards.

The lack of payments was condemned and concerns were raised regarding the prolonged vacancy of the DG PSQCA position for one and a half years. The committee questioned the authority’s actions and recommended the involvement of the attorney general of the Supreme Court to address potential malfeasance, in this instance. However, the issue of unpaid marking fees remains unresolved as the cement industry has challenged it in court.

Ghulam Abbas
Ghulam Abbas
The writer is a member of the staff at the Islamabad Bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]

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