A week or so ago, Kilak North MP Hon. Gilbert Olanya petitioned parliament seeking responsible government agencies to intervene in the investigation of a salt product which he called live threatening to his constituents.
He told the house that a salt product Pearl Salt being sold on the local market is “tasteless, doesn’t dissolve, but also one has to pour more quantities of it in the food in order to get the preferred taste”.
He further told the house that many of his area residents are in complete disarray and living in fear.
“Mr. Speaker, the complaint of the community is that this salt has particles that do not dissolve in water. Two, the salt is tasteless. You may add large quantities but it does not taste like the salt we eat every time,” Olanya noted.
Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah asked the legislator to table evidential value owing to the fact that the problem at hand is the salt not the packet.
Oulanyah further advised the MP to produce samples of the additive to responsible bodies such as Uganda National Bureau of Standards [UNBS] for quality testing.
Independent Online Journalists Association (INDOJA), a body that brings together online journalists, decided to carry out an undercover and deep investigations over a course of five days.
Business rivalry, sabotage
It was discovered that the whole saga is a business rivalry between Habari Salt and Bahari Salt.
Initially, Habari salt belonged to Dr.Hasmukh Dawda’s Umbrella groups House of Dawda (Uganda) and House of Manji (Kenya).
His salt company, Mombasa salt works was based in Mombasa Kenya which he started in 1975.
However, in 2007, he sold his Habari salt brand to Crystalline Salt Company belonging to another business man in Mombasa Kenya and later on emerged with two new Brands; BAHARI and PEARL salt.
Habari and Bahari have close similarities in name and branding which caused anxiety because even customers who are not very vigilant can easily buy the other brand when he/she meant to buy the other.
After several years, Habari reportedly started losing market steadily and more significantly to Bahari.
By April 2016, Bahari salt brand alone was selling 400 tons (around 14 full truck trailers) of salt per month compared to 100 tons of Habari.
A few years ago, URA reportedly got evidence that Crystalline Company, Mombasa, the manufacture of Habari salt was evading taxes by claiming that their salt was being manufactured in Kenya yet URA had got evidence that actually the salt was being imported from India with ‘made in Mombasa Kenya’.
Habari was heavily penalized in billions of money by URA after they impounded their tracks on transit into Uganda.
In 2016, Hon. Gilbert Olanya’s first concern in parliament was the condition of Bahari salt claiming his people had complained to him.
UNBS later took the matter, tested it but found no health problems were associated with it, and since then the salt is still on market.
All the two brands belong to one Okapi Trading Co.Ltd, who are under House of Manji (Kenya) and House of Dawda (Uganda).
In an interview with Business Focus on Thursday, Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) confirmed the salt was permitted on the Ugandan market after passing all the necessary tests.
“As UNBS, we are aware of the brands (Bahari and Pearl salt) on the market. The Mark on the brands indicates that they have been certified by KEBS (Kenya Bureau of Standards),” Godwin Bonge Muhwezi, the Head of Public Relations at UNBS said.
“As a measure to facilitate trade within the EAC, we recognize certification permits issued by Standards bodies in the EAC partner states.”
Bonge said the salt was cleared based on valid certification permits from KEBS.
He added that after receiving the allegations about the brands, the standards agency did further analysis on the products and they passed all the tests.
“…as a quality assurance measure, UNBS picked samples from the market for further laboratory analysis and the tested samples passed,” Muhwezi said.