Business News of 2013-12-25

Local printing of books remians uncompetitive

Local printers are pushing for the imposition of import duty on books printed outside the country to help discourage publishers from printing abroad.
The import duty is expected to create a level playing field between the cost of books printed in the country and those imported. This will enable local printing companies to compete with their counterparts offshore.
The Managing Director of the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), Mr Kenneth Ashigbey, made the appeal on behalf of the industry at the launch of a Quarter Fold Machine for G-Pak Limited in Accra
G-Pak is a wholly-owned subsidiary of GCGL, publishers of the GRAPHIC BUSINESS, the Daily Graphic and four other newspapers.
UNESCO Convention and printers’ woes
Currently, books imported into the country do not attract duty. That is mainly as a result of the country's status as a signatory to the UNESCO Convention Against Discrimination in Education.
The convention, which was adopted in 1962, mandates the signatory countries to, among other things, open up to educational materials from counterpart countries as part of efforts to attain universal access to education worldwide.
Although the country buys into the intentions of the convention, its implementation has pushed printers to the corner.
Many publishers and the government prefer to print outside and import as that is comparatively less costly than printing in-country.
A Director at Elohim Books and Stationery, Mrs Esther Ofosu-Mensah, confirmed the development in an interview but added that the launch of the G-Pak Quarter Fold Machine could cause them to change their minds.
"We print about US$50,000 worth of books annually and all of it is done outside; the reason being that when you print the books outside, it’s ok but here, it’s expensive," she said.
G-Pak shows leadership
The launch of the machine is the first of its kind in the country and comes on the back of significant investments made by the group and the company into the printing business.
The new machine has face-lifted the Graphic Press from solely newspaper printer to printing of books and magazines.
Following the launch, the G-Pak now has the capacity to print about 70,000 cuts of a 32-paged full colour an hour.
This translates to 10 million copies per month, making G-Pak, which is the printing and packaging arm of GCGL, the printers’ choice in the country.
"From this day onwards, therefore, the argument of lack of capacity, which is the reason for Ghanaian printing companies losing lucrative book printing contracts to their foreign competitors, is effectively killed. We can assure the Minister of Education that we will support her desire to have a reversal of the 80:20 share in favour of foreign printers," Mr Ashigbey said.
The Minister of Education, Prof Naana Opoku Agyemang, was the guest speaker at the event.
Education Minister assures
The local printers see the foreign domination in printing as a worrying trend that can be reversed should government level the playing field.
What is even more disturbing is the fact that many at times, the local printers are given jobs - about a month to the deadline - to print under pressure while foreign ones are given longer periods (up to six months). When they fail, they are accused of lack of capacity.
While thanking the government for waiving import duties on raw materials needed for the printing of government text books, the MD of the Graphic Group called on the Education Minister to intervene and save the industry.
"Honourable Minister, we wish to appeal to you to get the government, through Parliament, to extend the waiver to cover all materials that are required for book printing. If this is not possible, then my appeal to you is that we should level the playing field by also imposing duties on finished books to make us competitive when we produce books," Mr Ashigbey added.
The Education Minister, the immediate past Board Chairperson of the Graphic Group, commended the foresight of the company's management and assured the printing industry of her outfit's commitment to helping resolve the challenges facing it.