The Importers and Exporters Association has expressed worry over the recent influx of foreign wheat flour on the Ghanaian market, which according to them is crippling the local flour industry.

Most of these products, according to the association, have made their way into the country through unapproved routes without approval from the Food and Drugs Authority, a concern that puts consumers’ health at risk.

“Our concern as an association is the failure of the various institutions mandated to clamp down on these illegalities, which stand as a threat to the public’s health and safety.”

“It will interest you to know that most of this smuggled wheat flour has foreign languages inscribed on the bags or jute sacks, which makes it difficult for one to even identify their expiration date or wholesomeness. Nonetheless, most of this smuggled or imported wheat flour has found its way into our markets, schools and even eateries/restaurants across the length and breadth of the country.”

“It is of much concern that the majority of these foreign wheat flours which have flooded our local market space do not have the approval of either the Food and Drugs Authority or the Ghana Standards Authority seal on them – contrary to the laws governing the importation of consumable goods into the country,” Executive Secretary, Samson Asaki Awingobit, said at a press conference in Accra.

Another major concern for the Association is that, because most of this foreign flour is either smuggled or subsidised by governments of the countries of origin, its price in the market is cheaper than that produced locally. The foreign flour on the market, they say, sells at almost 50 percent less than the locally produced ones.

This, coupled with high energy and water costs along with high port tariffs, they say, make it difficult to compete and thrive.

“Already, there are many challenges facing milling firms processing wheat into flour in this country. The import of foreign government-subsidised flour from Turkey – and recently imported flour from neighbouring countries – poses a serious threat to the growth of the sector.”

“Our neighbour, Cote d’Ivoire, sees the necessity to cushion its citizens and rally flour millers to grant them exemptions from payment of duty or taxes on imports for 90 days. Their government did that to counter the rise in the price of flour.”

Calling on the government to aid the industry, Mr Awingobit expressed that with the local currency’s sharp depreciation against the US dollar and other major trading currencies affecting the flour milling industry in Ghana, the association has called on the government to do more in the area of creating an enabling environment for the local flour milling industry to do business and stand a better chance at competing with producers in neighbouring countries who sell their products at lower rates due to enormous support they enjoy from their government.

They also urged authorities to either ban or clamp down on this smuggled flour to save the local industry from collapse.

Source: Business and Financial Times