Rice Millers Association wants reversal of benchmark value reduction policy

Rice Millers Association of Ghana (RMAG) is calling for a reversal of the benchmark value reduction policy, which enables the customs to determine values of imports for duties at the country’s ports.

A statement signed by its Convener, Mr Yaw Adu-Poku, said the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) in recent weeks called for the benchmark discount policy to be maintained by government citing the possible increase in the prices of imported goods as their reason.

In spite of the arguments by GUTA, RMAG maintained that the policy over the two years made negative impact on the Ghana rice industry as most rice mills were currently shutdown and workers laid off.

This is as a result of the high cost of local production while the imported substitutes enjoyed a 50 per cent reduction in customs benchmark values making imported rice prices lower and rendering local alternatives uncompetitive on the market.

The statement bemoaned that farmers in the countries of origin of imported rice enjoyed support and subsidies in their production whereas farmers in Ghana had little or no subsidies for rice production.

“We believe that this policy is only beneficial to a select few traders particularly big importers of rice and other commodities, while the entire rice value chain in Ghana suffers. The consuming public has not benefitted from this reduction in benchmark values because prices of products have not gone down as expected over the past two years since the inception of the policy.”

The rice value chain in Ghana provided income to an estimated 500,000 persons in household engaged in various activities in the value chain, the statement said, and many of the people were going through tough times because of unfavorable market conditions occasioned by the policy.

“Whereas government has set a target of making Ghana self-sufficient in rice production by 2022, major rice mills are shut down. The RMAG as a key player in helping the government achieve this target remains skeptical about Ghana’s prospects of achieving self-sufficiency in rice production. Till this day, 90 per cent of rice brands are imported.

“It is unfortunate that GUTA appears to be threatening government not to review the policy after two years of its implementation. The government has learnt practically (after two years) that traffic to our ports have not increased as anticipated and prospects of increased revenue that was to be a result of the policy has remained elusive; this policy only enriches a few importers and not the general population of traders in Ghana as the GUTA seeks to portray.”

The Association, therefore called on government to review the policy in light of the lessons learnt overtime to save the local rice industry.

It said RMAG and many Ghanaian workers who lost their jobs and livelihood due to the policy are with the government should be bold with its intentions to review the policy to support key targeted sectors to create jobs to achieve its agenda for industrialization.

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