Ghana’s trade pendulum has always tilted in favour of import. In 2017, for instance local import through the sea ports of Ghana was 14,291,009 tonnes of cargo compared to an export of 6,463,077 tonnes.
Previously, various local agencies have made respective individual initiatives while several international organizations have also run ad hoc programmes to improve Ghana’s export. But these efforts have not largely succeeded in balancing Ghana’s trade leading to a huge deficit against export.
As part of efforts to building strategic partnership for the growth of export trade in Ghana, various players in the export business including regulatory agencies have been engaged in a move to brainstorm on how Ghana can balance its trade deficit between export and import trade through integrated ideas to enable the development of a cohesive strategic implementation plan.
The engagement which was facilitated by the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority led by its Director General, Paul Asare Ansah was targeted to find ways of balancing the trade deficit between import and export by growing export traffic.
At the opening of the ice breaking meeting on export growth in Ghana, the Director General, Paul Asare Ansah highlighted some initiatives by GPHA to help increase export trade include expansion and modernisation of port facilities in Tema and Takoradi.
He said GPHA’s tariffs are lower for exports than imports. “The recent increases in ports charges, we didn’t even touch exports at all, in some cases, so that we encourage the sector”, he stated.
Paul Ansah expressed GPHA’s willingness to provide accommodation to bring Exim bank closer to the port community, collaborate to ensure intermodal linkage to and from the ports and building strategic partnerships with relevant stakeholders to grow Ghana’s export.
“Whatever assistance we will offer Ghana Freezones to ensure that our country becomes an attractive export processing destination, we are ready to partner with them, just as everybody is here to partner with each other with a common goal to achieve,” he added.
The Commissioner of Customs, Isaac Crentsil said it will be difficult for any country to develop without export.
“All the issues that we talk about, with respect to unemployment, people are challenging figures, if there are readily available export markets, some would be shifted or moved into agricultural areas to do more agricultural products so that they would be able to then, export. But then if the structures, the strategies, the platforms are not there, it becomes very difficult,” he said.
He pledged the commitment of customs division of the GRA to facilitate export products at Ghana’s borders and ports.
“Whatever that we can do, to ensure that export business improves, or our export regime improves, we will do it, because like we said, we partner the government to ensure that revenue comes in to help build our good nation. And therefore we would support any organisation that comes forward to ensure that we will be able to export. Our strategy is that we will be talking to the trade associations,” he noted.
The Executive Secretary on Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana, Samson Asaki called on agencies responsible for export in the country to expedite their registration processes in order not to deter and frustrate exporters.
“If I am going to FDA, that I’m developing okro for export or if I go to Standards Authority or if I go to Plant Quarantine Division or if I go to Veterinary that I’m getting into meat production, how fast is their procedure? Registration fee alone is not encouraging,” he expressed.
A representative of the Food and Drugs Authority decried instances where exporters fail to obtain the requisite export licenses and certificates before exporting their products.
“When we certify the palm oil, we give what we call certificate of free sale and manufacture. So ideally, at the ports, before it leaves here, every consignment that has been certified by the Food and Drugs Authority would have this certificate. So these companies that send their product out there which FDA in not in the known, how did they get out there? That is a serious issue we are battling with,” the representative shared.
Eric Amoako Twum, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Export Promotion Authority highlighted some efforts made by his outfit in promoting export.
“What we have done is that we have tweaked the national export strategy that we came to meet with a new strategic plan that feeds into the government’s ten point transformation agenda so I am glad that you spoke about 1D1F and all those things. But the point is that without a broad-base strategic initiative, we will do things in silos,” he opined.
Naa Dansua Ayittey, Head of Shipper Services and Trade Facilitation of the Ghana Shippers Authority said exporters need to be trained on how to package their products.
“Complaints that we have received from some of them is that they do not even know how to package their things and export it in order to be competitive on the international market. Apart from what the Food and Drugs Authority has mentioned, we can say, when we talk to them, that they have difficulty in being competitive on the international market because they do not understand the process of shipping,” she indicated.
She advised that a one-stop shop service point should be provided for exporters to expedite their operations.
“This thing has been talked for a long time the one-stop shop for everyone to be able to know that, if I get into this particular place, I’ll get FDA there, I’ll get Standards Authority, I’ll get GRA, and I’ll get GPHA all at the place. I do not need to go to one place to the other then to another before I could complete my procedures. Sometimes they find it difficult,” she lamented.
Ghana Standard Authority hinted that steps should be taken to find out why some export products are rejected on the international market.
“Can we have data on why some of the products are rejected at the point of entry? I think last week, for instance, there was a publication that cocoa was rejected by Japan, due to pesticides. So if we have data on information on these things, in order not to lose the bits that we are even exporting,” Research Manager at GSA, Kwesi Owusu said.
Ghana Free Zones Board suggested that export policies by regulatory agencies should be done in consultation with other agencies to avert overlapping.
“A good example is where Ghana Standards Authority will come out and then make a blanket policy which sometimes affects the Free Zones Enterprises. You know the Free Zones are specialized in nature so we will expect that if you have this policy in place, they should have communicated to the secretariat. We will know how to approach the Free zones companies and educate them,” a representative of the Free Zones board explained.
The Ghana Chamber of Commerce, reiterated the need for exporters to be trained and bemoaned the fact that regulations are brought on the blind side of the export community.
“Regulations are brought without even considering the export community. We only see the headlines in the papers, after maybe you have prepared something you are going to export, only to be hit with something that you don’t understand- new regulations! I think we need to see ourselves as partners,” Isaac Barry, Tema Regional Chairman of the Ghana Chamber of Commerce lamented.
The chamber of commerce also stressed the need for the capacity building for manufacturers.
“Let’s team up, build the capacity of the producers, and then at the time of exports, the challenges we are facing now would be minimized or we can eliminate some of them. Because if Food and Drugs Authority should sit and wait for the exporter to come to the Port for you to use your machine to test oil. Yes you may seize that particular oil but export may not continue,” another representative of the Ghana Chamber of Commerce contributed.
A Deputy Commissioner, Operations at the Customs Division of the GRA, Seth Dwira called for resources to be pulled together by exporters in order to make great impact in the export business.
“Products come in the rural areas, at the end of the day, they got rotten. This serves as a disincentive for farmers to produce the following year. This should be looked at. They should be a buffer stock where when farmers who lose at the end of year, would be cushioned so that the following year, they can plant or go to the farm,” he suggested.
Kojo Asomaning from Amaris Terminal called for collaboration of all agencies to drive the export sector.
“What I would suggest going forward, is to form a steering committee; even if it is monthly or quarterly so that we can meet and have that forum that can carry forward the very good work that GPHA is doing in terms of these strategic moves,” he added.
Evelyn Nyarko, the Deputy Director at the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre called on regulatory agencies to train their staff on new export regulations so as to facilitate the export trade.
“Let us educate officers at the ports. There has been instances where policies are running, they get there and the officers have not heard it before. So, you will now have to talk to the officers there and explain to them that this is the issue to the extent that some would ask you to give them copies of the documents but copies have already gone to their heads,” she highlighted.
The Head of Communications of Exim Bank, Emmanuel Essilfie-Conduah called for collaboration between agencies in the export sector in order to promote the export business in Ghana. He pledged the commitment of his outfit to support exporters who need their facilities to promote their trade.
“Our role as EXIM bank is to facilitating Ghana International Trade and we have the funds. What we want to do is to be able to identify the most important crops or products which has international advantage,” he stated
Both the Director General of GPHA, Paul Ansah and Commissioner of Customs Division of GRA shared that thoughts expressed at the stakeholder meeting would be harmonised into an integrated strategic plan after which a national stakeholder section would be held in an effort to promote the export sector.
“We must be determined to change the direction of trade in our country, no two ways about that. And that change would be occasioned or effected by those of us gathered here who have direct interest in growing the export sector,” Director General of GPHA, Paul Asare Ansah averred.