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General News Wed, 6 Nov 2002

Smuggling of Foreign Rice to Ghana

Reports reaching the Accra Daily Mail (ADM) indicate that large quantities of cheaper foreign rice are being smuggled into the country from Cote d'Ivoire.

The ADM's investigation has revealed that Cote d'Ivoire is being used as a transit point to Ghana because of the low duty fee there. Cote d'Ivoire charges 17% duty fee while Ghana charges about 30%.

The ADM also learned that in order to swiftly dispose of this inferior foreign rice the smugglers re-package it into sacks of existing rice brands in the market after which they are sold at a higher price.

ADM sources said the smugglers make about $15 million per annum, which has greater repercussions on the economy and the local rice market in the country. "This is undermining our local rice industry. They do not pay tax," the source said.

Our source, making a suggestion that could help stop the act, called on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to harmonise the tariff regime in the sub-region to discourage smuggling among other illicit trading activities.

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The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Maj. (rtd) Courage Quashigah told the ADM in an interview that even though his ministry has been informed about the issue it does not fall within its purview. He directed us to the Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) and the Ministries of Finance and Interior.He said, however, that he is aware that officials of CEPS have moved into areas where smuggling is purported to have been taking place to access the veracity of the issue.

He told the ADM that the smuggling of foreign rice into the country would not discourage his ministry from enhancing local rice in the country.

"Whatever is happening does not disturb us. We are still in the process of improving the milling and packaging, and production would increase."

On the Aveyime Rice Project in the Volta Region, he said government has taken over the assets and is "working on lots of feasibility studies" before any serious production would commence.

Ghana imports about $100 million worth of rice each year and the rejuvenation the local rice industry in the country would help save lot of money.It is in this regard that the government recently acquired rice production equipment for selected rice producing communities to help improve the colour of local rice. As part of a move to stem the spate of smuggling of agricultural produce especially cocoa from the country, an anti-smuggling task force was launched last week to patrol the borders.

Source: ADM
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