Local jewellery industry is dying!!!

CEO of Shanti Jewelry, Ernestina Agyapong
  • Players call on gov’t for swift intervention

Local jewellers are struggling to keep their heads above water as a myriad of challenges are threatening to wipe out the industry that holds a semblance of connection to the country’s industrial gold mining sector which feeds refineries around the world.

The government’s recent war on galamsey appears to be the final nail in the coffin of the jewellers as their last hope for raw materials fizzles out. The sustained export of gold in its raw form by government, influx of foreign buyers from China and India of the gold mined by large and small scale miners and the unavailability of local assaying of gold are just a few of problems that have bedeviled the local jewellers.

According to the manufacturers, there is no government-led initiative aimed at helping them have access to gold in the country, hence, they have to rely on illegal mining (galamsey) for their raw materials. But the current fight against galamsey has also deprived them of their only means of acquiring resources for production as the ‘galamseyers’ have stopped operating due to fear of being arrested.

Previously, said the CEO of Shanti Jewelry and Chairperson of the Federation of Ashanti Regional Goldsmiths and Jewellery, Ernestina Agyapong, local manufacturers could just go to the Bank of Ghana and purchase gold for production. But that arrangement has been discontinued for some years now, forcing them to rely on galamsey operators for their raw materials.

This, she admits, undermines government’s fight against galamsey to protect the country’s water bodies, but, they are left with no option as neither the Precious Minerals Marketing Company (PMMC) or any other authorised agency is providing them with the raw material.

Chinese, Indians, pricing out locals

Besides the difficulty in procuring gold for production, there is also the challenge from unfair foreign competition. The local producers are accusing foreign buyers from India and China for pricing them out of the market as they tend to offer higher prices to the miners to supply them with the gold.

“We don’t have any proper or authorised agency where we can buy gold from so we rely on galamsey operators. But due to the war on galamsey, it is becoming difficult to get the gold and the little we get also comes at a very high cost now due to high demand.

Another factor is that there are many foreigners in the market who are even prefinancing the miners, including those operating on large scale and those from galamsey. These foreigners even manipulate the prices by offering prices higher than the world market just to entice the miners. So before the gold is ready, there is already a buyer, and this is really affecting our access to gold for production,” Mrs. Agyapong said in an interview with the B&FT.

Lack of assaying facilities

A further challenge affecting growth of the sector is the lack of an assaying facility which essentially checks the quality of the gold. The unavailability of this facility has given way for buyers of local jewelleries to shortchange the producers, as they make excuses about the products quality.

Then, there is also the challenge of exporting the jewellery to the foreign market as the various international delivery companies do not accept any product made of gold. The only delivery service available is Ghana Post but that takes longer time to get to the destination.

These and other challenges plaguing the sector, Mrs. Agyapong said, will leave the country with no local jewellery industry, if not promptly addressed by government, as some players have bowed out of the business to move into other trade.

Centralised system for purchase of raw material

“We need an established office where local jewellers can buy gold from so that we don’t have to go to galamsey operators to buy from them, especially when government wants to stop it. Then, we need an assay office to help us standardize our gold, check the carats so that whoever buys our products would be sure it contains the specified carats of gold he or she wants.

Another help we need is subsidy on import duty for the machines we import. Government does it for other sectors like the agriculture and pharmaceutical sectors so it would be proper if same support is extended to the jewellery industry.

We also need a policy that will facilitate the export of our products outside the country. If we will be able to bring in foreign exchange, then, we need to be able to export our products. We can’t keep relying on these courier services, so we want an agency set up to facilitate exports of our finished products,” she said.

The Precious Minerals Marketing Company (PMMC) has among its mandates, the responsibility to promote the development of precious minerals and jewellery industry in the country. However, the organisation has recently focused on facilitating the export of minerals, thereby, leaving the local industry to the fate of the players.

The B&FT reached the PMMC for comments on the matter. However, as of the time this story was going to press, we were not able to get the comments of the CEO, who, we are told is the one is allowed to speak issues like this.

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