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    Benchmark Policy: Exempt Oil Palm if you care about Ghanaian businesses’ – OPDAG to Govt

    The Oil Palm Development Association of Ghana (OPDAG) has said that some local palm oil producers are being forced out of business due to the reversal of the benchmark policy.

    Speaking to the media on the sidelines of a press conference in Accra, Selorm Quarme, Executive Secretary of OPDAG said their members have had to take several drastic measures to stay in business including laying off of workers.

    “We are baffled by what the objective of a future call for stakeholder engagement is and why an indefinite suspension of the implementation of the review at this time. We have made our case on numerous occasions over the past two years to the President, the Economic Management Team, all the relevant government agencies such as the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Finance, the Ghana International Trade Commission (GITC) among others but unfortunately the status quo has remained, “he said.

    He said it was rather unfortunate that while the government invests so much resources into the promotion of the ideals of industralisation of the Ghanaian economy, the government implements such a counterproductive policy such as the 50 per cent benchmark reduction policy.

    OPDAG, a representation of the entire palm oil value chain actors in Ghana, believed that if their call for suspension was not heeded to then the source of livelihood of over 24,000 persons who depend on the productivity of the entire value chain of the sector for their livelihood would be lost.

    Mr Quarme further said that the reversal of the policy would also have adverse effect on government policies such as the Planting for Food and Jobs and the One District, One Factory Initiative.

    “Initiatives such as Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ), Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD) are all that which will not thrive under this strategy that subsidises imports while maintaining stiffer conditions under which local industry must operate of which the oil pal sector of Ghana is not an exception, ” he said.

    He said the threats and false claims of the importers that consumers would face astronomical price increases after the new review of the policy were false.

    “Prices of goods we manufacture in Ghana will not see such prices as has been portrayed by the PR machinery of the importers to incite the good people of Ghana against this critical decision that faces the nation,” he said.

    He further called on the government to consider it’s decision to suspend the implementation of the policy indefinitely.

    Below is their full statement:

    OPDAG CALLS FOR EXEMPTION OF OIL PALM FROM THE 50% BENCHMARK REDUCTION POLICY AND THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE POLICY REVIEW.

    Members of the Press, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, we are pleased to have you here with us regardless of the short notice.

    Yesterday, Thursday, January 13th, 2022, was a Black Thursday for the Local Manufacturing sector in Ghana, with the government announcement of an indefinite suspension of the review of the benchmark reduction policy.

    It is rather unfortunate that while government invests so much resources into the promotion of the ideals of industrialization of the Ghanaian Economy, government implements such a counter-productive policy such as the 50% benchmark reduction policy.  Initiatives such as Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ), Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD) are all initiatives that won’t thrive under this strategy that subsidizes imports while maintaining stiffer conditions under which local industry must operate of which the oil palm sector of Ghana is not an exception.

    We the Oil Palm Development Association of Ghana (OPDAG) is calling on the Government to immediately and speedily reconsider its decision to indefinitely suspend the implementation of the review of the 50% benchmark reduction policy.

    Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, we have heard the threats and false claims of the importers that consumers will face astronomical price increases after the review of this policy which will bring hardship to Ghanaians we wish to state that such claims are false as the arithmetic does not prove so.

    Prices of good we manufacture in Ghana will not see such price as have been portrayed by the PR machinery of the importers to incite the good people of Ghana against this critical decision that we face as a nation.  It is important to note that what faces us now is a BIG CHOICE between the source of your livelihood of over 10,000 persons who depend on the productivity of the entire value chain of the oil palm sector of Ghana from the plantations to edible oil refineries for their livelihood and the profits of the few importers of edible oil products into Ghana.   We wish to state that the oil palm sector faces a calamitous situation currently and thousands of jobs will be lost if this suspension lingers on into this new year.

    We find the indication of the Government for more stakeholder engagement very worrying and intriguing.  This is because for 2 years government have been engaging with all relevant stakeholders consistently.  We have made our case on numerous occasions over the past 2 years period; we have been heard by the President, the Economic Management Team all the relevant government agencies such as the Ministry of Trade & Industry, Ministry of Food & Agriculture, Ministry of Finance the Ghana International Trade Commission (GITC) etc.  Unfortunately the status quo has remained.  We are baffled by what the objective of a further call for stakeholder engagement is and why an indefinite suspension of the implementation of the review at this time?

    Some Oil Palm manufacturing orgnisations such as the refineries have been through very challenging times with employee numbers due to low productivity occasioned by the influx of cheap imported finished oil palm products. Over 500 temporary jobs have already been lost and further downsizing the staff numbers remains the only short term option to save their plants.

    Closures are imminent in a few months from now if the situation of a takeover by imports remains the same.    We are sad to inform you that the 2 major oil refineries Wilmar Africa and Avnash Industries have currently shut down their refineries due to low demand.  It a matter of weeks, the impact of this situation will hit our member companies in the plantation and oil mill subsector of the chain.  It is important to note that these large refineries have only survived the past 2 years due to exports opportunities they developed within the ECOWAS region.  These opportunities however are all lost now as these destination countries have also taken steps to empower local production of oil palm products to create jobs and reduce imports to save their economies.

    Ladies and gentleman of the press, we can confidently say that among the four oil palm producing countries in West Africa, Ghana is the only country that welcomes the importation of FINISHED OIL PALM PRODUCTS and also glorifies it with a 50% discount in the benchmark value when we have excess local capacity to produce same.

    Since the introduction of the policy our plea and advise to government has always been to exempt oil palm products from the policy because local processing capacity outweighs local demand by 100%; a situation that offers Ghana the opportunity to produce oil palm products for exports to earn foreign exchange.

    We face huge job losses and hardships to employees and entrepreneurs in the palm oil sector if the government does not reconsider the implementation of the review of this Benchmark Reduction Policy.  We also wish to call on all we-meaning Ghanaians and stakeholder groups such as the Employers Association of Ghana, the Ministry of Labour and Employment Relations, the TUC, GAWU, ICU and GUTA to support this noble call to save our sector from collapse.

    In Conclusion, we want to re-emphasize the fact that a lot of Ghanaians will lose their jobs as we are beat the path towards deepening our status as an import driven economy and the government’s industrial transformation agenda will remain a plan for a very long time.

    Indeed, industrialization is a difficult path to choose in developing our economy as it remains a long term goal but we ought to pay the price now to save our economy and create the much needed jobs for the growing youthful population of Ghanaians.

    Thank you

     

    Signed

    Selorm Quame,

    Executive Secretary, Oil Palm Development Association of Ghana

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