Ministry Assuage Fears Of Local Rice Producers

Government decision to lift the ban on inland rice importation into the country after three years of ban have sparked another unrest among stakeholders in the rice production business.

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The move to open borders for rice importation has received a lot of backlash from most especially local rice producers as they fear this will once again render the local rice uncompetitive on the markets.

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Although, the Trade Ministry has explained that it has not fully lifted the ban on the importation of rice through the inland borders in Ghana.

According to the ministry, three borders have so far been opened to rice importation and more borders will be opened eventually depending on an ongoing assessment of the move.

A statement from the Ministry on last week, announced that three inland borders; the Elubo, Sampa and Nkrankwanta borders have been re-opened to rice importers, after almost three years ban.

However, the Executive Secretary of the Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana, Mr. Sampson Asaki has expressed disappointment in the government for lifting the ban on the inland importation of rice into the country.

He said the move by government is very surprising since persons who do inland importation do so illegally.
Mr. Asaki revealed that most of the inland importation of rice usually use the Elubo, Sampa and Nkrankwanta borders and as such do not pay tax unlike those who use the ports and pay tax to the government.

He argued that, the Food and Drugs Authority will not be able to check whether the rice is of good quality and healthy for consumption or not since they have no personnel at the borders to do the inspection.
Some stakeholders have also alarmed that the move will also encourage smuggling into to the country since the Ivorian taxes are cheaper than taxes collected in Ghana.

They are of the believe that, although some importers prefer bringing in goods through the Tema and Takoradi ports move will in influence such importers to use the borders.
Meanwhile, the Head of Tax Advisory Board at the Trade Ministry, Lawrence Osei Boateng has assured the stakeholders that, there is no cause for worry as measures have been put in place to ensure local producers are not affected.

“It is only three land borders that we have opened and we are sure that we have the co-operation of the security services, customs to check the menace of smuggling, under invoicing and we have also met with the small scale importers of rice and we have the assurance that they will be doing genuine business,” he stated.

He has guaranteed that a review of interim measures will prompt the opening of the remaining borders to the rice importers.

“So this is work in progress so when we have reviewed and are very sure, we can reopen the rest of the borders,” Mr. Boateng further remarked.

But, the Chairman of the Ghana Rice Inter-Professional Body (GRIB), Harold Ntorenkansah says the Trade Ministry must ensure the right standards are brought unto the market to suit the consumers’ preference.

“It is very important that we go back to the roots and check standards. The problem that we have now is because anything at all comes unto the markets as rice, whether imported or locally produced. Talking about the purity of the rice itself; the quality, the grain size, the grain length, the contamination, the percentage broken and all the other attributes of rice come to question.

Even the level of milling and the polishing, those are the kind of attributes the consumer wants to see,” he stressed.
The ban, which has been in force for about three years now, prevented the importation of rice into the country through the Elubo, Sampa and Nkrankwanta borders.

The move was to curb the numerous unfair trade practices such as evasion of import duties and other taxes, under-invoicing, infringement of trademarks and smuggling.

Source: Adnan Adams Mohammed

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