Last week, Health Protection Agency (HPA) warned that they’d take action against unregistered businesses selling food and beverages.
According to the agency, they had received complaints regarding the sale of food and beverages that are prepared at unregistered kitchens such as at homes and that these businesses were advertising themselves on social media and providing delivery services too.
HPA instructed such businesses to immediately register via the online portal of Ministry of Health and warned that action would be taken against those who do not comply.
According to HPA, these measures were taken due to health and safety concerns.
HPA’s decision was welcomed by the Restaurant Association of Maldives (RAM). The association described it as a success achieved through their numerous efforts.
The HPA’s decision came at a time when due to the economic implications of the Covid 19 crisis many were running micro home based food businesses to make ends meet, and therefore was met with heavy public criticism.
The registration process mandated by the HPA being lengthy, untimely and inappropriate were among the concerns that were raised. Outrage was expressed regarding the lack of a transition period as well as the hefty fines for those who do not comply.
It was also pointed out that while the Business Registration Act requires food service providers to register and adhere to a set of safety standards, selling products or providing services at home to sustain one's own livelihood without employing any additional individuals is exempt from registration.
Furthermore, screenshots of RAM’s Viber group conversations with sentiments of wishing to eradicate online food vendors went viral and calls for boycotting the members of RAM followed.
Later during the week, the Ministry of Economic Development issued a statement confirming that home based enterprises do not need to register, citing clause (a), Section 9 of the Business Registration Act.
“For clarification. There is no legal requirement for registration of home based enterprises. However under the health protection mandate HPA can bring in such guidelines for the safety of everyone concerned. We are in talks with HPA to make allowances for current situation,” said Minister of Economic Development Fayyaz Ismail in a Tweet.