The importation of cheap poultry products into the country has resulted in over 150 employees of Afariwaa Farms Limited being rendered jobless, between December 2004 and March 2005.
The General Manager of Afariwaa Farms, Mr. Ernest Owusu Afari, revealed this, in an interview last week.
He said the closure of the chicken processing plant or the slaughterhouse has rendered most small-scale poultry farmers whose poultry sold under the brand name Afariwaa, unemployed.
According to him, it is not only Afariwaa that has reduced its workforce; the Sydals Farms is also in the process of reducing its workforce from 162 to 110 by the end of the month.
Mr. Afari further said the G8 countries transfer tax money to subsidize their farmers to the tune of approximately $1billion, which is the entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Sub-Saharan Africa.
He said subsidies are paid to the US, European Union and Japanese farmers to grow too much food for domestic markets and the resulting surplus then dumped on African countries.
He contended that the failure of the poultry industry to battle for the imposition of higher tariffs on imported poultry products, especially poultry meat, was lost when Parliament approved, with 97 votes as against 92, the downward revision of the poultry tax.
He said the poultry industry was disappointed when the tax on imported poultry was reduced from 40%to 20%, which was a sign of the collapse of the local poultry industry, adding that most consumers would resort to the purchase of the cheap chicken, compared to the locally expensive chicken products.
The general manager said Ghana must put in place measures to protect the local industry, citing Nigeria whose ban on imported fruit drinks to protect the local industry, has helped the Nigerian fruit drinks company to succeed.
He said the poultry industry has been waging a battle for its survival for sometime now, particularly the broiler section, where imports take markets away from the producers in Ghana.
The manager debunked allegations that the uncompetitive nature of the industry is attributable to inefficiencies, poor management, and inadequate investment in technologies and modern farm methods in research.
He said the success stories of most poultry farms in the country, should tell how determined the industry is.
Meanwhile government says the inability of local producers to meet the domestic consumption of key products such as rice and poultry was making it difficult to place a ban on their importation.
Mr. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, Deputy Minister of Finance said although domestic industries had the capacity to produce to meet market demand, they were unable to do so because of poor infrastructure and inadequate technological advancement necessary to create the required growth.
Speaking at a Media Dialogue, organized by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) Mr. Agyeman Manu said other factors included lack of access to cheap credit and poor managerial acumen of most directors of these industries.
The dialogue was on the topic: “Challenges of Ghana's Local Industries- Any Prospects for Fair Solutions”?
The Deputy Finance Minister ruled out the use of high tariffs to ensure growth of local industries, saying “experience in most developing countries in the past showed that, such protection mechanisms did not engender the growth envisaged for the sector.”
Rather, he said, to encourage Ghanaian companies to be competitive, government was putting in place various mechanisms to ensure their future prospects.
These included various legislative, administrative and budgetary actions not only to protect Ghanaian products from imports but also assist the export of Ghanaian products to other countries, especially those in the West Africa sub-region.
In this connection, Mr. Agyeman-Manu said the ministries of Private Sector Development and Trade and Industry would facilitate the access of Ghanaian products to both the local and international markets.
Besides, the Customs Excise and Preventive Service and other security agencies are improving efforts to stem smuggling of goods into the country. With regard to poultry production, Mr. Agyeman-Manu said the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) had established a Broiler Project with the view to increase poultry production by 1.2 million birds by the end of this year.
Additionally a poultry board will soon be established to oversee the implementation of the poultry programme, which also would include the cropping and processing into oil and cake 10,000 hectares of soyabean and sunflower as feed for the birds to reduce feeding cost and improve the competitiveness of the poultry sector.
Mr. Agyeman-Manu said similar initiatives were being carried out to boost rice production to at least, by 20 per cent.