Importers at the Tema port have disclosed to Citi Business News some businesses have been compelled to relocate to neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire due to the high taxes and charges imposed on their operations at Ghana’s ports.
The importers who have been speaking to Citi Business News on the numerous challenges impacting their activities also fear they may be forced to shut down if authorities do not intervene.
There have been growing concerns over the imposition of new taxes and tariffs charged at the ports which the businesses complain have adversely affected them.
The recently introduced ECOWAS Common External Tariff saw the imposition of charges on some imported items and the elimination of others.
The CET which came into law following the passage of the Customs (Amendment) Act, 2015 (Act 905), is composed of four tariff rates of custom duty.
Essential Social Goods will attract zero percent; while goods of primary necessity,raw materials and specific inputs will attract 5%. Meanwhile intermediate goods and final consumption goods will attract 10% and 20% respectively.
Mr. Dankwa, a clearing agent at the Tema Port, who has been in the business for over thirty years now said, “I engage in transit and because of the hardship importers are facing in Ghana, it has compelled them to move to Ivory Coast and Togo,
“The whole of West Africa, Ghana is charging more taxes than any other country. The latest one includes the taxes on bicycles and ambulances which used to be free. The previous government under John Agyekum Kuffuor removed the taxes on the imported rice, but the NDC government re-introduced them. So the importers are suffering, likewise we the clearing agents.”
He added, “We work in collaboration with the importers as clearing agents, but because their businesses have been dwindling, we have also been struggling.”
Meanwhile a freight forwarder, Dennis, alleged extra payments are demanded by some officials of the National Security who frustrate the exit of their goods after obtaining clearance from the customs officials.
“An examination officer checks your goods and passes you onto the preventive office and clears you to exit the port, but the National Security will impede your exit and demand that you pay between 2000 to 3000 cedis,”
“You would have genuine documents which have all been certified by the customs, yet the National Security insists they will not allow you to go,” he alleged.
He however stated, “I do admit that paying the money is abetting corruption but because of competition, if you do not oblige, you are bound to lose your clients to other clearing agents.”
Meanwhile some freight forwarders have raised grave concerns over what they say is the multiplicity of functions at the port which is impacting on their operations.
The businessmen tell Citi Business News the situation mostly affects clearing of imported poultry and other frozen products.
They explain that they are compelled to pay more in demurrage due to delays in clearing their wares.
“After undertaking all that processes with agencies, you then proceed to the veterinary, Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA). Then I may have to return to the Customs chemist to pass the imported products,” Chairman of the Freight Forwarders Association, Edward Akrong stated.
He added, “If your container arrives on Friday, all these agencies do not work on Saturday and Sunday. They need a physical examination of the products to be able to undergo the testing, meaning you can only commence the process on Monday…No shipping agency will not say that because your container arrived on Friday, demurrage will take effect on Monday, they start calculating your charges right from Friday.”
Mr. Akrong also dismissed assertions by the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority that the clearance procedure takes less than a week to complete.
“If you brought in a container of frozen chicken, with all these processes, there is no way you can clear your goods in less than three days.”
In response however, Assistant Commissioner of Customs at the Tema port, Confidence Nyadzi, told Citi Business News his outfit cannot be faulted since they are able to complete the process for importers with the right official documents and clearance from allied institutions in less than a week.
By: Vivian Kai Lokko, Pius Amihere Eduku/citibusinessnews.com/Ghana