Some worker unions in the agricultural sector are worried that government’s duty discount on benchmark values could result in massive layoffs in the coming days.
The Food and Allied Workers Union claims the benchmark regime creates an unequal field in the private sector, leaving many Ghanaian companies unable to compete with cheap imports from foreign markets effectively.
Wilmar Africa Limited, producers of Frytol who also launched a ¢30 million detergent manufacturing plant, have announced a temporary shutdown of its oil production unit.
The wholly-owned subsidiary of Wilmar International explained that the situation is compounded by many factors, including the benchmark policy and also a price-fixing mechanism introduced in neighbouring Abidjan, which is encouraging smuggling into the Ghanaian market.
Kenneth Koomson, General Secretary of the Union, is worried the situation could lead to the loss of jobs.
“This is benchmark value policy, simply, is a discount that government has magnanimously offered to importers so they can import and uncompetitively compete with our local manufacturers.”
“Once the manufacturers cannot compete, the obvious decision is to shut down and also convert their operations into warehouses,” he said.
Meanwhile, the General Agricultural Workers Union says government must take immediate steps to prioritise local companies.
Edward Kareweh, the General Secretary of the Union, warned that over 120,000 jobs risk shutting down if the benchmark policy is applied to locally-produced goods and services.
“There are areas that we still have a shortfall, and you can import to supplement the shortfall in production, but you don’t go further to reduce the duty on those imports and make them far cheaper.
“The implication is that anybody interested in investing in the industry will now invest in imports because it is easier, and you will make more money.
“That cannot take Ghana to where we want it to be; even immediate jobs are threatened. We are talking about over 120,000 jobs at risk and are threatened to close down. When the factories are shut down, those producing palm oil will also shut down or cut down production,” he warned.