Nigerian exporters get more insight into legal considerations in packing and packaging

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·NEPC says most products get rejected due to labelling

·Lawyers warn that wrong labels can attract lawsuits oversees

By Ignatius Chukwu

Most products from Nigeria get rejected at points of entry into other countries often because of nature of packaging that may not have considered the legal requirements or ethical issues in importing countries.

The Nigerian Export Promotions Council (NEPC) which threw the bombshell in Port Harcourt during a workshop said there are legal requirements of print size on labels that may cause rejection during inspection in foreign countries.

According to Julie Ommoke, NEPC head of legal delegation that anchored the training at Aldgate Hotels in Port Harcourt, nothing is done without guidelines and regulations. “You must know what to do when packaging and how to achieve sellable packing. It is important to know that through packaging, you are branding your product because some persons will see your product from far and recognize it.”

Speaking on ‘Packaging: Legal considerations for Export’, Ben Achor from NEPC headquarters made it clear that every human is a product, so packaging is compulsory because the eye eats (admires) before the mouth. Shelf beauty is key.

“Consider: shelf readiness, design consistency, informative labeling/coding, user friendliness, brand representation, and customer needs. Most regions/countries decide how their shelves look like. The exporter must know how to align with these.”

He urged them: “Confirm with Act of 1967 that stipulates labeling to disclose net content, identity, place, etc. Be abreast of the Fair Labeling & Packaging Act of 1967 (domiciled in Nigeria) must be obeyed.”

He warned them to beware of dangers of wrong labelling, and never to forget new address if old ons changed. “Show link between product and consumer protection because they do not joke with consumers rights abroad. The law varies according to country. Try to understand them though it is universal.

“Note international versus municipal laws. Some countries do not use certain items that affect their gods, beliefs, and sentiments. Ghana abhors kente leave while cow head represents a god in India.

“Beware of logos. It might be copy-righted. Consider environmental laws of countries especially the use of plastic packaging. Consider food packaging laws of countries; it must not mislead the consumer, must not be adulterated through packing and packaging materials. Consider due diligence, laws of countries local regulations, materials chosen disclosure, tradition of importing country. Legal authority must approve your design.”

Businessman and one time commissioner of commerce in old Rivers State who attended the workshop, Andrew J. Egbelu, called for open industrial zones so exporters can have easy way. He also seeks export processing cluster zones so common facilities can be brought into them for easy access to exporters. “Finance is a critical issue. Importers in different countries need different things.”

Reacting, Joe Itah, South-South zonal coordinator, said the FG is planning export processing hubs. “It is to focus on seven products. Already, there is one in Aba for leather products with UNIDO as facilitator’

He disclosed that there are also packaging hubs and about 100 packaging companies are already in existence. “We can give them to exporters that want their services. There is need to study packaging/labeling because different countries have their local laws and sentiments. There could be litigations over packaging breaches.”

In his opening remarks, Itah said packaging overshadows packing itself. “So, exporters must pay attention to how their products are packed and then how they are packaged and labelled. This seminar is for the progress of export business in the south-south.”

(First used in BusinessDay)