Business News of 2013-12-17

No hamper directive hurting basket weavers

Christmas is an ocassion for merry-making but for many cane weavers, this Christmas looks bleak as hundreds of baskets remain stuck in their shops 14 days to the occasion.

Cane weavers in parts of Accra are on the hard road to sell their boxes and baskets. Their usual customers who had in earlier years flooded their shops to load the commodity have somehow disappeared, giving them sleepless nights.

Hampers (a basket or box filled with sweets, drinks, cookies, etc) distinguishes the Christmas celebration from other ones. This year, however, they are conspicuously missing.

The Switch Back Road at Cantonments in Accra is one area where baskets and boxes for hampers are produced in commercial quantities.

While there were not that many baskets in some of the areas, others such as the group headed by Mr Kofi Kankam had stockpiled about 1,000 and still counting.

Mr Kankam has 10 casual workers who have woven about 1,000 baskets. “If nothing miraculous happens, I will be in serious trouble because I have invested heavily in producing these baskets,” he stated.

“We didn’t know which people patronised our goods but the announcement by President John Mahama has made us realise that government agencies and ministries were our major customers,” he stated.

Mr Sampson Gyakye, the head of a cane weaving group near the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) offices at Cantonments, told the Daily Graphic that he had not even sold baskets worth GH¢200.

President Mahama’s directive

President Mahama has directed all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to desist from using public resources for Christmas and New Year gifts such as hampers during the upcoming Yuletide.

A letter from the office of the President directed MDAs, as well as metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs), not to dole out public funds for Christmas gifts, including hampers.

That directive, the cane weavers believe, has negatively affected their business. “We only weave the baskets at this time of the year,” Mr Patrick Kisi said.

Mr Kisi and his colleagues have about 1,500 baskets in stock but said he had sold only eight baskets from the beginning of December till now. “The directive has affected us so much. I cannot even sleep,” he said.

Prices of baskets, boxes

Prices for some of the baskets had been reduced from a previous GH¢15 last year to GH¢10 this year but that was not even improving our sales, Mr Kisi said.

A small-size basket is selling at between GH¢8 and GH¢10, a medium size for GH¢12 and a large size for GH¢15.

History of hampers

Christmas hampers were originally an offshoot of the English 'Boxing Day' tradition when masters would give servants boxes full of useful gifts on December 26.

Christmas hampers are still given as Christmas gifts to employees, valued business clients or family and friends.

It is said that gift hampers were first brought to England by William the Conqueror, who reigned in the 11th century just after the Battle of Hastings and his subsequent march on the city of London. Based on the French word ‘hanapier’, which literally means ‘case for goblets’, the wicker hamper was first used to transport food and wine on long journeys across land and sea about 1000 years ago.

Wicker was the primary material used to create food containers at that period, because it was much lighter than conventional wood but just as durable.