How to improve quality of Ukrainian products to the European level

Ukraine has undertaken to bring requirements for the security and quality of goods to the European level. It means that not only Ukrainian exporters should work according to the European standards, but also companies that work for the domestic market. 

Ukrainian business after the launch of the Free Trade Area between Ukraine and the European Union received a permanent opportunity to sell a number of goods to European states without paying customs duties. For some goods, the rate of fee immediately decreased from 10-20% to zero. For others, namely: milk, meat, honey, juices and cereals (a total of 36 commodity items), duty-free import is possible in limited quantities during each year.

In the first material, we analyzed for the special Business Together project what changes occurred in export in recent years, and also analyzed in which segments there is a place for Ukrainian small and medium-sized enterprises on the European market.

In this material, we decided to focus on changes that will even more affect the Ukrainian business, especially small and medium-sized enterprises. It is about Ukraine’s obligations to raise the requirements for the safety and quality of goods that are produced in the country.

High standards not only for exporters, but also for the companies working for the domestic market

The Ukrainian authorities have 10 years to harmonize the requirements for producers and goods with the EU standards. These are the obligations that our country has assumed. This norm applies not only to the industries where more “risky” goods are produced, for example, perishable food products. We are talking about absolutely all areas of business, in particular furniture, appliances, toys, clothes and others.

The Ukrainian government continues to perform its “homework”. It revises and adopts new laws, harmonizes by-laws with the European laws, implements these new laws and works to improve standards.

But the Ukrainian business is already feeling the changes. After all, new requirements for safety and quality of goods differ from the old ones in many cases.

European requirements for the safety and quality of goods will soon become binding not only upon the exporting companies, but also upon the business that works on the domestic market.

The greatest number of requirements will be for the companies that manufacture end-use products, especially products of animal origin, for example, meat and milk.

“You need to check what the cattle were fed with, how the grain was grown for feed, whether there were any harmful substances in it. Next, you need to look at the conditions under which cattle were kept, how they were slaughtered, how meat was produced, how it was stored at warehouses, how it was transported to the places of sale. At each of these stages something may happen and make the end product harmful to the consumer,” explains ProAgro Group Deputy Director Mariia Kolesnyk.

Not only the European requirements for the quality of goods…

The Ministry of Agrarian Policy, which is responsible for upgrading the requirements for food manufacturers, says that Ukrainian companies need to work in two areas at once, namely to ensure the safety of the goods and their quality.

Before releasing products to the market, the manufacturer must fulfill two key requirements, in particular to ensure the safety of the goods and take care that the consumer can understand its quality using the information indicated on the packaging, emphasizes Oleksandr Lozovytskyi, the Head of the Department of International Integration in Technical Regulation, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures in the Agro-Industrial Complex of the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food.

Today, the government is developing new quality standards for individual products. At the same time, Ukrainian standards must comply with the European standards.

“It also includes the components of the product. For example, for a product to be considered chocolate, it should contain a minimum amount of cocoa beans and cocoa butter. There will be seven indicators for honey, in particular sugar, moisture and diastase,” Lozovytskyi makes an example.

If the product does not meet these quality indicators, it cannot be indicated on its packaging that it is “chocolate” or “honey”. This will be considered misleading consumers, and the company will be brought to responsibility.

But there is an important “but”: we are talking about the minimum threshold values, the note at the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food. In other words, business does not need to be afraid to produce goods with indicators that exceed the minimum values.

New standards of quality of goods have so far entered into force only for chocolate and chocolates. Now the transition period is in progress, because business needs to make sure that the goods meet the requirements, and also prepare the packaging with the correct labeling.

How is the packaging related to product quality standards? It is the packaging that should become the benchmark in quality control. It means that the State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection will ensure that the information on the package is in line with the standards.

“Information on the packaging of goods that are sold in Ukraine should be as much as possible in compliance with the one required from business in the EU. But for this purpose, we still need to adopt a law on informing consumers, which, in fact, will oblige the companies to label products correctly,” says Oleksandr Lozovytskyi.

What should do the companies, whose products do not meet the new quality standards? They have two options: either change the packaging, removing, for example, the word “chocolate”, if the product contains insufficient number of cocoa butter, or change the recipe.

The manufacturer is responsible for the safety of the goods

“Two important norms were introduced in the legislation of Ukraine after signing the Association Agreement,” says Lozovytskyi.

First, the legislation now additionally emphasizes that the manufacturer is responsible for product safety. Secondly, responsibility for food industry enterprises that did not implement the world safety principles of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point), a system for the analysis of risk, hazards and control of critical points, is provided for from now on.

The State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection conducted special training for its inspectors, and they should make sure whether one or another company corresponds to the principles of HACCP.

Producers are also obliged to analyze the entire chain of their production, namely from raw materials to finished goods in terms of compliance with the principles of HACCP (not to receive a certificate, but just to comply with the principles). And if necessary, rebuild.

But for this purpose, it will definitely take time, staff, funds to change the packaging, to train personnel and, possibly, invest in new equipment. Therefore, small and medium-sized enterprises received the additional two years for preparation. Changes will become binding upon them starting from autumn of 2019.

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