Horticulturists demand end of Shed 9 logistics standoff


… call on authorities to ensure GPHA renews licence as agreed

Principal stakeholders in the horticulture industry are demanding an end to the ongoing licensure stand-off, as they implore relevant parties to ensure that the regulator – Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) – abides by mutually-agreed decisions regarding the matter.

The ports and harbours regulator has, since 2017, given the licence for two critical processes required for exports – stevedoring and shore handling – exclusively to a company in which it holds a 25 percent stake; the Fruit Export Terminal Limited (FET).

This is a departure from the previous arrangement, which saw the industry-led Fruit Terminal Company Limited (FCT) handle the processes.

The industry participants have thus called on the Agriculture and Transport ministries, as well as the Economic Management Team (EMT), to adopt means within the remit of the law to get GPHA in line for good of the industry.

Commenting on the subject, President of the Sea-Freight Pineapple Exporters of Ghana (SPEG) – an umbrella-body for more than 25 horticulture producers – Solomon Benjamin, said the industry is at its wit’s end… having tried all forms of moral suasion to no avail.

He added that while setting up FET was unnecessary, the industry is more concerned by the regulator’s decision to force them into using the new company’s services.

“FET was not necessary because we are engaged in a peculiar activity, and in the business that we do logistics management is key. A lot of research was undertaken before government came to the conclusion that, if this industry is to thrive, this is the best solution… the current set-up, which requires us to go through this new entity, is an affront to us… if we had erred or shown an inability to carry out the tasks, we would understand,” he explained.

“We have been to the Agric and Transport ministries and the EMT. We have made our case, and they have even instructed them to give us the licence. So, what is preventing them from doing so? If we are operating in a free market, why is this happening? And as players, where I want to go is where I should go; so what is their fear in giving us our licence?” Mr. Benjamin questioned.

A member of SPEG, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he is particularly perplexed by GPHA’s disregard for the industry’s request – and the seeming inability of higher authorities to enforce measures, given the potential impact on the economy.

“I cannot understand why GPHA is not doing what it has been asked to do – that is, to give our licence to us; and why the authorities are not putting pressure on them to do so,” the industry player said.

Despite the impasse, data made available by SPEG show an increase in the volume and value of banana exports – a development analysts say is a result of the direction of global demand, adding that the nation could have raked-in multiples of the figure if the prevailing issue had been resolved.

In 2017, 76,077 tonnes of banana valued at €60.86million were exported. Also, 2018 and 2019 saw 85,463 and 92,019 tonnes of the fruit similarly exported with corresponding values of €68.37 and €73.62million.

There was a very marginal dip at the height of the pandemic in 2020 as the volume of exports stood at 91,672 tonnes, raking-in €73.34million. The following year saw a 10.64 percent rise in both volumes and value. In 2021, 101,429 tonnes of banana valued at €81.14million were exported. At the end of October 2022, 75,843 tonnes of banana had left Shed 9, returning €60.67million to the country.

The export of pineapples has however suffered, as volume has steadily declined from 10,319 tonnes in 2017 with a corresponding value of €5.16million to 4,343 tonnes in 2021, raising a paltry €2.17million.

This comes as a pallet of farm produce is currently priced at around US$25.5 in Ghana, more than double the US$6.79 in Côte d’Ivoire and US$8.56 in Cameroon.

SPEG added that investors are eager to pool resources into expansion of the domestic horticulture space to take advantage of the global market, which was valued at US$20.4billion in 2021 and remains on course to surpass US$56.5billion by 2030.

The market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.9 percent during the forecast period, 2022–2030, according to analysts at Growth Market Reports. The investors have, however, been put off by the impasse.

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