Members of the Sea-Freight Pineapple Exporters of Ghana (SPEG) are demanding an immediate renewal of their licenses to enable them to export their produce to the international market.
At an emergency meeting, the members have issued a resolution saying if the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) refused to renew their stevedore and shore handling licences by the end of this month, they would divert their cargo to the port of Lome, Togo for onward shipment to the international market.
The Exporters Association, most of whom are farmers, are also unhappy with what they said were unnecessary interferences by the GPHA which had led to additional cost to their operations to the tune of $245, 796 and 283,809 in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
In the resolution, the President of the Association, Mr Solomon Benjamin, also demanded a refund for the cost incurred.
He stated that the threat by SPEG to move their consignment to Lome could potentially affect Ghana’s trade policies at a time when the government was leading efforts towards the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Speaking to the media, Mr Benjamin said the association is “disappointed at the slant which was given to the issue of the supposed payment of judgment debt” which had been a subject matter in Parliament and which nearly marred the approval of the Agric Minister-designate.
According to him, the Kufuor government signed a Management Agreement (MA) with the exporters of horticultural products by sea in order to promote government’s initiatives including the Horticultural Exports Industry Initiative (HEII).
In addition, “the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) took a loan from the World Bank to rehabilitate the existing Shed 9 at Tema Port into a modern fruit export terminal which was completed in 2006.
Two years after completion and after several deliberations as to the management of the facility, the government with the consent of the World Bank agreed to allow exporters to manage the facility to ensure that cost to exporters of using the facility was as low as possible in keeping with international best practice and to complement their huge investments in plantations and the thousands of jobs created.
According to him, the role of GPHA in this arrangement was to provide FTC with stevedore and shore handling license to operate and to apply the concessionary rate of tariff agreed to by GPHA with MOFA as contained in the MA.
According to Ghanaweb.com Mr Benjamin said to ensure a smooth operation of the agreement, the exporters contracted Supermaritime Company Limited (SMT), a forwarding and clearing company to do the stevedoring and shore handling on their behalf for a period of one year.
“FTC, therefore, had an arrangement where the equipment and personnel of SMT were leased to FTC at a negotiated fee per pallet which allowed SMT to handle fruits at the port using FTC’s stevedore licence,” he explained.
He expressed surprise, that GPHA went behind them to sign an agreement with SMT to perform the same task.
“…After investigation, it emerged that SMT had formed a rival company as far back as 2014, called Fruit and Export Terminal Ghana Limited (FET) with GPHA as a 25 percent shareholder and had allegedly granted to themselves a 25-year concession agreement to do essentially what Government had mandated FTC to do and more,” he stated.