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02.08.2005 Business & Finance

Furniture industry under threat

The furniture industry, the age-old trade and vocation in the country is the next sub-sector that faces threats of collapse after the textiles and poultry industries, if immediate measures are not taken to safeguard it.

This follows huge imports of cheap furniture, mainly from China and other parts of Asia, as well as the United States of America.

A visit to the market and some supermarkets confirmed evidence of such imports with comparatively lower prices.

Local artisans in the industry have consequently called for a quick government intervention to control the imports before the situation gets out of hand.

A medium-scale wood and steel furniture manufacturer, Mr Ashwood Yaw Owusu, told Graphic that the imports were both cheap in quality and price and therefore undercut the market.

He said the situation, which started seriously about two years ago, was now hampering local sales.

The entrepreneur, who owns his workshop and showroom at Kisseman,near Achimota,said against the background that local cost of production was higher as a result of high cost of wood, transportation and energy, local small- and medium-scale producers with no economies of scale (mass production advantage)were experiencing stiff competition with sales figures going down drastically over the last two years.

Ashwood Furnishing Company, which used to employ an average of 28 workers, now engages only 15 as a result of low turnover.

A large-scale producer, who pleaded anonymity, also confirmed the influx and called for government intervention.

The source said although the company bought wood from recognized and legitimate sources, it was still facing pockets of unbridled competition from the Chinese imports.

It said although the quality of local furniture was guaranteed, many Ghanaians were forced to go for the imported one because of inadequate disposable incomes.

Authorities at Agorwu Furniture confirmed the influx but said their production levels were intact because the quality of their products was well known.

The Managing Director of Agorwu,Mr Samuel Diabo,said although buyers initially went for the imported,it did not take long for them to come back to the company for replacement because of the latter's quality and intriguing designs.

Mr Diabo said he had no problems with raw material supplies since he had established contacts with legitimate suppliers who gave him the supplies regularly.

Other small-scale furniture makers were not aware of such imports but were unanimous that sales of local furniture products had dwindled over the last two years.

Mr Albert Awortwe, owner of Creative Styles Furniture Works, a small-scale shop at Kwashieman, a suburb of Accra, said the cost of wood had gone up because of government ban on chain-sawn lumber.

This, he said, inflated the price of his furniture, which had resulted in low sales in the last few years. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has said it will do all it can to help local furniture producers improve their competitiveness, which is key to their survival.

“Price, quality and delivery competiveness should be a keyword and if there is the need to help the industry to improve, we will do so,” a schedule officer at the ministry, said on condition of anonymity.

The source said although there had been complaints about the influx of some foreign products, that of furniture had not come to its attention.

“We know there are furniture imports from Italy and other parts but that of China has not come to our attention,” it said. The source could not readily give exact figures of furniture imports into the country.

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