Manufacturers in distress over 50% reduction in benchmark values …warn of job losses

Local manufacturers have said their plight has been worsened by the 50 percent reduction in benchmark values of imported goods that can be produced domestically, especially those along the agriculture value chain.

They argued that the reduced benchmark values cover about 19 percent of products generated by them along the agriculture value chain; and that because of the lower tariffs the imported products enjoy when they are brought into the country, it makes them cheaper than those produced here.

“These reduced benchmark values have brought the local manufacturing players into distress across the board. We have members reviewing and considering laying-off staff, and they have put future investments on hold. Our secretariat is inundated with membership letters of concern,” said Fatima Alimohammed, Agriculture Sector Chair-Association of Ghana Industries (AGI).

“Free trade should mean fair trade, and this is unfortunately not the case today in Ghana post the recent introduction of 50% Reduced Benchmark Values,” she added.

Speaking at an AGI Agribusiness Sector seminar in Accra, dubbed ‘Planting for Export and Rural Development’, she said products such as tomatoes, rice, poultry, among others, are suffering because of the revision.

For instance, she said, Ghana Oil Palm Development Company and Wilmar – both in the oil palm sector – are both distressed and considering laying-off workers as a result.

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“The impact felt is not only on the finished product but across the whole value chain. Imports of oil touched 400,000mt in 2018, yet our deficit is only 150,000mt for a market consumption of 320,000mt. On rice we touched 900,000mt import, and on meats we are at around 2.8million kilogrammess a month import. This is to just give us a feel of what to expect the numbers to look like post evaluation of the reduced tariff values,” she lamented.

Sadly, she said, importing from neighbouring markets is now cheaper than producing in factories in-country, and even imports from across the sea are much cheaper than what is being produced domestically.

“Ultimately,” she said, “there are no friends or enemies when it comes to protecting any nation. It is just businesses and nations protecting their economies and interests. As Ghanaians, we need to be properly positioned to protect the interests of our nation first and create the best mutually beneficial outcomes with others, and I believe we can and are.”

Although she described ratification of the Africa Free Continental Trade Arrangement as the biggest thing after the World Trade Organisation, she noted that it is important for Ghana to set an example in the agribusiness sector for the rest of Africa.

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She concluded: “We at AGI are willing to take the lead on this. Our question is: what is the way forward with these reduced tariff values for the agriculture sector, especially for those products that are already being produced in Ghana?”

Agribusiness seminar

The AGI Agri-business Sector seminar aims to coordinate relevant stakeholders along the value chain, particularly along government’s programme of ‘Planting for Export and Rural Development.

The seminar therefore brought together private sector players to deliberate on how they can effectively participate in the programme.

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