The Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) is calling for a collaborative effort between the Ghanaian government and industry stakeholders to address challenges facing the freight forwarding business.
This they believe will create an environment that does not only comply with international standards but also promotes the seamless flow of goods, fostering economic growth for the nation.
Addressing a press conference in Tema, the President of GIFF, Mr. Edward Akrong said one of the foremost issues freight forwarders face is that of valuation of goods by the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority.
He said although valuation has been a sore point in doing business in the Ports, this has been further exacerbated by a recent imposition of a ‘reference price list’ for the valuation of goods by the Board of Directors of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).
“We specifically make reference to a memo emanating from the Board and then to the Customs Division that “No discounts, variations or acceptance of values below the reference price list should be given on any item or product”.
This directly contradicts international trade agreements, particularly those under the World Trade Organization (WTO), Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA),” he said.
Mr. Akrong said it is an illegality for the Customs division of GRA to create a certain minimum value or reference price list for valuation purposes.
Several importers, he noted, have been saddled with this imposition even though they have provided all evidence of the genuineness of their values.
“All of this adds to the high cost of doing business in our ports and also a direct effect on the cost of goods in our markets. The other major effect of this policy is that it affords importers to transfer funds illegally,” he said and urged a reconsideration of this policy to align with international standards, fostering a conducive environment for trade.
Mr. Akrong averred that a full implementation of the Interconnected System for the Management of Goods in Transit (SIGMAT) is hindering the smooth flow of goods across borders and impeding the efficiency of the country’s logistics and supply chain operations.
“These operational bottlenecks have been occasioned by the implementation of the SIGMAT which causes extreme discomfort and escalates the cost of doing business at the entry points,” he stated.
The GIFF President said the Customs division has made the SIGMAT mandatory for direct exports into Ghana to be bonded, a situation which is an anathema to customs export procedure leaving every export declaration hanging as though the process has not been completed thus creating room for these same officers blocking the systems of the customs house agent at will for what seems to be an incomplete operation.
Touching on what he described as the negative effect of the exemptions law, he said the recent passage of the Exemptions Act, 2022 (Act 1083) by Parliament has inadvertently created obstacles in the clearance process, affecting not only private enterprises but also hindering the clearance of government cargoes at our ports.
“Data available shows for example that Ghana Cocobod and the Cocoa Marketing Board for the last 3 quarters of 2023 have a total of over 910 TEUs on the Uncleared Cargo List. This is mainly due to lack of exemptions. The sad part is the accrual of demurrage charges to the shipping lines, which is an enormous burden on the government,” he noted.
He advocated for a thorough review of this legislation to ensure that it serves its intended purpose without obstructing the essential movement of goods, particularly those crucial to government operations.
Mr. Akrong expressed worry that repeated calls for the harmonization of shipping line operations and charges to reflect equity and fairness has not received the needed attention from the Ministry of Transport.
“We as an association have resolved to invoke the subregional mandate of businesses and allied stakeholders to nib this canker in the bud in the days ahead,” he charged.
He called for a collaborative approach between the government and industry stakeholders to formulate policies that are not only responsive to current global dynamics but also supportive of the growth and sustainability of the freight forwarding sector.