The Era Of Import Licenses Is Back…It Has Started With Poultry Products
Import Licenses were very popular in the 1970s during General Kutu Acheampong’s regime. In that era anyone who wanted to import any goods into the country needed the express permission of the Government.
This was basically because the country then had serious foreign currency problems and the little that was available had to be rationed by the Government. An import license then was not only a permit to import but also qualified one for some allocation of foreign currency to import.
Those were the days of “fa wu to begye golf”when General Acheampong’s famous green pen was all one needed to get the import license.
More than forty years on it appears Ghana has returned to that era. This time round, it is Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Hannah Bissiw’s pen that calls the shots. Today anybody or institution that wants to import poultry products into the country needs the expressed permission of the Cuban trained Veterinary Officer, Dr. Bissiw.
The Ministry of Agriculture has started implementing a new import policy to cut down on the country importation bill. The policy allows an importer to bring into the country only 100 tons of poultry products every three months. But sources close to the Ministry say that the policy is not holding and that with the right connections an importer can import as much as they want and at any time too.
Even though on paper the new import policy looks good and gives the impression that government is trying to protect local poultry farmers it is increasingly becoming clear that this is yet another scheme to put money in the pockets of those who manage the process.
The reality is that the local poultry industry produces only ten per cent of the total consumption of poultry products in the country and therefore Ghana has no choice but to look elsewhere to meet domestic demand. When cumbersome procedures are introduced into the importation process it only creates new overheads and increases the cost of the imported product.
The total consumption of poultry in Ghana is estimated at 160,000 tons but local farmers are able to supply only 16,000 tons. The price of an imported chicken if averagely GHc5.00 while a locally bred chicken sells at Ghc12.00.
The Government of Ghana has since the beginning of this year made its intentions clear to ban imports of consumables. Indeed President Mahama has said that his government wants to reduce imports by US$1billion. They are looking at items like rice, sugar, cooking oil, fish and poultry products.
But experts have said that this ambition can only be achieve in the long term with proper planning and that any rush actions by the government will drive the market underground and cause a return of the ‘kalabule days’.
The total annual consumption of rice in Ghana is estimated at 600,000 metric tons. Of this quantity local production is responsible for only 150,000 metric tons. There is no sugar factory in Ghana and so the country meets all her sugar needs through imports.
If the government introduces permits for imports as they have done with poultry products, it will not be long before smuggling takes centre stage in the market.
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