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Speed up clearance, biscuit makers tell health ministry

PETALING JAYA, 17 Nov 2008: The Ministry of Health should speed up the issuing of clearance letters for melamine-free biscuits manufactured locally as the industry is in danger of collapsing.

In issuing this warning, MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Chua Soi Lek said some public-listed biscuit manufacturers have approached him with claims that the industry could collapse within a month unless the problem is addressed.

Chua, the former health minister, said the manufacturers were hard-hit by the regional melamine scare due to contaminated milk from China, and are suffering a 50% drop in their export market business, while domestic consumption is down by 30% to 40%.

“Some have not been able to service their loans,” said Chua, who added that the biscuit manufacturers are crying foul over the long waiting period to get a letter from the ministry certifying that their products are free of melamine.

He said the clearance certificate can only be obtained at any one of the five laboratories assigned by the health ministry.

“These labs take two weeks to issue the letter of clearance for manufacturers. As it takes too long, it is very difficult and costly for manufacturers to store all these biscuits in the meantime,” said Chua.

In contrast, Chua, who was recently appointed MCA government policies monitoring bureau chief,  said biscuits sent to Singapore for melamine testing need a mere two days to be cleared.

Hence, he said, the ministry should accept the test results from the Singapore laboratories and issue the letters of clearance to the local biscuit manufacturers.

Chua said that Minister of Health Datuk Liow Tiong Lai promised at the MCA central committee meeting on 11 Nov that the ministry would look into the matter.

The country’s biscuit makers exported some RM600 million worth of products every year, while estimated RM1.2 billion revenue was raked in from the domestic market, according to figures from the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade).

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