Pesident J.A. Kufuor has expressed optimism that with the discovery of oil and prudent economic policies, the country's quest to attain a middle-income status by the year 2012 will be realised.
He said in spite of the country's present economic challenges, "our nation has joined China and India to become the toast of major developed and industrialised economies".
In an address read on his behalf at the 2007 (19th) National Awards for Export Achievement in Accra at the weekend, President Kufuor said the country remained the preferred destination for doing business in Africa for majority of companies in the developed world.
About 33 companies received awards for their exceptional performance in the Non-Traditional Exports (NTEs) trade for last year.
The Ghana Rubber Estates Ltd (GREL), which exports, natural rubber sheets, was adjudged the Exporter of the Year, while the Ghana Nuts Company Ltd came up as the Most Diversified Exporter.
That company exports various agricultural products, including groundnuts, cashew nuts, shea (karite) oil and medicinal plants and parts:
The awards ceremony was organised by the Ghana Export Promotion Council (GEPC) and sponsored by a number of companies, including the Export Development and Investment Fund (EDIF), the Venture Capital Trust Fund (VCTF) and Air Ghana Ltd.
President Kufuor noted that "Providence has been kind to us and we have discovered black gold" and emphasised his optimism that when combined with prudent policies, the discovery would provide the key to- a -middle-income status by 2012.
He said China had recently become the country's second largest trading partner, with 11.6 per cent share of the country's trade in 2007, coming after the European Union (EU), which had 33.1 per cent share, noting that China's growing middle-class, now estimated at 100 million people, could fuel the demand for Ghana's exports of goods and services.
President Kufuor said Ghana, therefore, needed to position itself well to take a good chunk of the Chinese market and expressed the hope that the export sectors would play a key role in the venture to consolidate the country's presence on the Chinese market.
"I, therefore, urge you to pay particular attention to the quality of your products to get a niche of the Chinese and other emerging markets," he noted, and cautioned that in building their competencies, the exporters should seek and use up-to-date trade information.
The President said the NTE sector had been dominated by small and micro enterprises (SMEs) which generated 80 to 90 per cent of jobs in the country but lacked access to big capital.
Towards improving the situation, he recalled various forms of assistance introduced, including the Venture Capital, the Micro Finance and Small Loans Scheme (MASLOC) and EDIF, to support SMEs.
President Kufuor said a Services Charter had also been introduced to educate the public on the roles and responsibilities of the various public institutions and said he had seen the charter the GEPC had produced and was convinced that it would address the need of exporters to facilitate their operations.
The Executive Secretary of the GEPC, Mr Edward Collins Boateng, said in the last couple of years a record number of companies and products had entered the awards scheme, a sign of their growing participation in the country's export trade.
He said the GEPC had implemented a number of programmes under the country's Trade Sector Support Programme (TSSP), which led to the record $1 billion mark achieved for NTEs.
"Factors attributable for this growth include improved performance of manufacturers, with leading products being cocoa paste and butter, canned tuna, articles of plastics and fresh pineapples," Mr Boateng stated.
The executive secretary said the council was establishing a marketing company to address the supply-side constraints of small-holder farmers by helping them to overcome some marketing problems. .
He said the council would also mainstream trade in services and capture their data into the national statistics and that new technological tools would be adopted for timely information processing and distribution to the exporter community.
The capacity of the GEPC itself would be enhanced to enable it to adjust to the changing trends in the world market.
Three companies received awards for excellent performance in export services. They were EDIF, for export financing; Air Ghana Ltd for air cargo and the Ghana Community Network (GCNet) Services Ltd for innovation in trade facilitation and revenue mobilisation.
Fourteen companies also received awards in the Gold category, including Lion Aluminium Products Ltd; lnterplast Ghana Ltd; SRG Industries Ltd, exporter of plastic articles; Logs and Lumber Ltd; Param Farms and the Kpone Lobster Export Company Ltd.
The others were Ghana Nuts Company Ltd; PZ Cussons Ghana Ltd; Ernimich Ltd; Homefoods Processing and Cannery and Balanced View Ltd.
The rest were John Bitar Company Ltd, Dhillion Farms and Dasoa Company Ltd.
The 13 companies which received awards in the silver category included Aluworks, exporter of aluminium plates, sheets and coils; the Cocoa Processing Company Ltd, exporter of cocoa butter; Ivone Fishing Company Ltd, exporter of crabs, and Premier Quality Ltd, a garments and clothing exporter.