We need equitable trade rules – GIHOC MD

Ghana needs to also start putting impediments on imports from certain countries which have put similar ones in the way of exports from the country, Managing Director of state-owned alcohol producer GIHOC Distilleries, Maxwell Kofi Jumah, has said.

He explained that certain countries have deliberately made it impossible for some exports like alcohol or bitters from Ghana to enter their markets; meanwhile, those same countries are bringing in similar products – in some cases inferior ones – to compete with domestic producers.

This, he lamented, does not promote equitable and free trade practice – and thus it is high time the country also took similar steps to protect domestic producers.

“Ghana for some reason has allowed itself to be flooded and ‘raped’ by foreign alcoholic companies. They come in the name of free trade, but it is not free trade when we want to take ours to those countries,” Mr. Juma stated.

Mr. Jumah was speaking at the launch of GIHOC Apet Dry Gin, a double-distilled alcoholic drink made from Akpeteshie – also known as ‘local spirit’.

He added: “The alcohol industry is just the perfume industry; we use either concentrate or flavour. Unfortunately, most of these foreign drinks are made from flavour but GIHOC never uses that, we use concentrate which is obtained from natural products.

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“What is even more baffling is that GIHOC and the other local producers have superior products, but Ghanaians prefer foreign ones,” he stated, adding that: “As a people, we are not proud of what we have; we love to go after foreign stuff which are even inferior to our own”.

Asked if he would call for a ban on importation of alcoholic products, Mr. Jumah responded in the negative. “I am saying that there should be equity; the same rules that they have for us if we go their country should also be applied here.

“So, I am not saying they should be banned – but that the barriers they have put in place so we cannot compete with them, we should also have those same barriers here.”

He therefore, urged various government agencies to urgently provide a level playing field for both local and foreign products to compete, adding:

“I am sending out a message to the Minister of Tourism, Minister of Finance, and Ministry of Trade that they should stop the influx of fake and sub-standard alcoholic drinks into the country. They should stop it until they also allow our drinks into their countries; the same rules and regulations that they use to stop us should also be applied in Ghana,” an incensed Jumah advocated, without mentioning the countries or products being referred to.

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Meanwhile, he said the performance of GIHOC has been remarkable so far and that it is on course to make profit this year.

“First of all, we are not going to lose money. All the time I hear of state enterprises losing money, but we are on course to making profit. We may not be able to pay dividends; we are going to reinvest the profit to make sure that GIHOC is operating at full capacity. And we are going to make sure that the debt that we inherited is paid,” he assured.

Currently, he said, the company is producing about 23,000,000 litres per year, way below its capacity – but noted that steps are advanced to return it to full capacity in 2019.

The Apet Dry Gin, which is without the traditional Akpeteshie scent, comes in bottles and mini-packs.

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