GEPA’s US$3.6bn NTEs target in peril

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  • as COVID-19 decimates export market

  • art and crafts sub-sector in total shutdown

Ghana Export Promotion Authority’s (GEPA) hopes of realising US$3.6billion from Non-Traditional Exports (NTEs) this year is facing serious doubt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This is because spread of the virus has led countries around the world to close down borders as a preventive measure, effectively implying that local producers and exporters are unable send their products to foreign buyers because of the virus.

While the authority could not tell the exact impact the COVID-19 economic lockdown will have on the set target for the year when contacted, it said it does expect the NTE earnings to take a significant hit.

Already, cashew – a leading contributor to NTEs revenue over the last few years – has seen its value plummet by more than 50 percent this year alone, partly due to the virus and lack of an entity to regulate prices.

As a result, the cash crop which in 2016, raked in about US$197 million worth of export revenue, representing 53 percent of the US$371 million received from the total agricultural NTE sub-sector saw its price fell from about GH¢8 per kilo last year to between GH¢3 and GH¢2 during its peak season last April.

The drastic change in fortune, according to Kwaku Adu, a farmer based in Wenchi in the Bono Region and Chairman of the Ghana Corporative Cashew Farmers and Marketing Association, is also due to the inability of buyers, particularly from Asia, to come down and purchase the nuts.

More worryingly, the once burgeoning art and craft sub-sector which employs about 10,000 hands, according to the National Association of Handicraft Exporters, has been completely shutdown by the COVID-19 global lockdown.

“Currently, our industry is in total shutdown and we go to work just to while away time not because there is something to be done,” the association’s National Secretary, Erasmus Philip Ahorlu, lamented, noting that it will take at least a year to bounce back to normal after the pandemic.

Mr. Ahorlu, who is also a producer, added: “Those of us in the export arena have been hit hard and also the producers and those who sell on the local market are struggling because if you go to all the art centres, no one is working now: tourists are not coming. Our export market is in the United States of America and the European Union and they have been hit hard by COVID-19 and as a result of that, export is not going on.”

Intrusively, the lower than expected prices for cashew, coupled with challenges in exporting other NTE products such as art and handicrafts, semi-processed and processed agriculture produce, among others, presents GEPA a big ask to achieving the US$3.6 billion export target for this year and the over US$5 billion it has earmarked to realise by 2021, according to market observers.

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