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Smuggled textiles still killing industry   
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Members of the Local Textile Printers Association (LTPA) have expressed grave concern about the alarming escalation of illicit trading activities of some Ghanaians and their foreign collaborators in textile prints, which have resulted in an unprecedented low patronage of locally produced fabrics.

These unscrupulous local and foreign traders, according to the LTPA, engage in: smuggling and hence evade duties on their imported products, under invoicing (declaration of lower values of imported goods) and through dumping (disposal of cheap, substandard or inferior products) unto the Ghanaian market. They also pirate the designs of local printers which are then smuggled through Togo for sale in Ghana.

The situation has brought the local textile manufacturing industry to its knees, and unless drastic and far reaching measures are adopted Ghana’s local textile manufacturing industry will be lost to history, and with it, its role in employment creation, revenue generation, and a tradition respected across the entire African continent. The Revenue Agencies Governing Board (RAGB) in 2002 estimated that about ¢300 billion (old cedis) in potential revenue is lost to the state through textile smuggling.

Currently, with the exception of Akosombo Textile Limited (ATL), household names such as Ghana Textiles Manufacturing Company (GTMC), and Printex have all shut down their spinning and weaving department due to cheap imports from abroad, especially China. These defunct sections were said to be employing a chunk of the labour force in the industry.

Total local production of textiles which peaked at 130 million meters per annum in the 1970’s has dropped to below 39 million meters per annum currently and the labour force in the industry has consequently reduced from 25,000 in the 1970’s to less than 3000 as of now.

Spokesperson for LTPA told Public Agenda in Accra about the challenges they go through to get a particular textile design printed. They revealed that, first a design is produced on paper; it then goes to the Registrar General and paid for, if approved. It is then taken to the factory where screening and payment is made before printing, with the label of the manufacturer and the initials of the designers boldly imprinted.

“The minimum quantity produced for each print is 250 pieces. You cannot recover your cost with only one print cycle. One will have to repeat the cycle in order to recoup his or her investment. You can do several designs and only will his, “bemoaned Ms Irene Adevora, a spokeswoman.

She disclosed that the smugglers are very smart in that when a new textile design comes out, in less than a week, they are able to buy a sample, send it to China for reproduction and then smuggle it back to Ghana through Togo.

“We are aware smuggling has existed since time immemorial but we are asking government to protect local industry, or else we will be helping to create jobs for other countries to the detriment of our people. Smugglers do not pay any tax and that if government has any interest to protect jobs, then it should take action”.
The Secretary of the LTPA, Ms Lydia Baah, emphasized that Ghana has a heritage and this must be protected.

A joint statement by the Textile, Garment and Leather Employees’ Union (TEGLEU) and LTPA on the perennial problem facing the textile industry, appealed to the government to establish a permanent task force comprising representatives of stakeholders namely, government, manufacturers, traders and the trader unions to carry out periodic checks at the sales points of the contraband goods and effect arrest and prosecute culprits as recommended in the Revenue Agencies Governing Board Report adopted in 2003.

They commended government for the swift manner it dealt with the issue of the imported Chinese school uniforms and asked it to do same to the smuggled textile issue, since it would go a long way to revive the local industry and improve the contribution of the sector to the growth of the national economy.

Despite strenuous efforts to hold its own, Ghana’s textile industry continues to face serious problems with the situation worsening by the day.

“Where lies the fate of tertiary graduates who pursue Industrial Art course with textiles as their option on the labour market as the sector faces total collapse?” asked one trader.

Industry watchers have time and again expressed concern about the collapse of the industry and are now calling for drastic solutions. Mr. Abraham Koomson of TEGLEU complained that although they have been fighting the issue of smuggled textiles for a long time, the problem still persists and is getting worse each day.

Globally, there has been a decline in the performance of the textile sector. At a meeting last year in Durban, South Africa of union representatives of clothing, textile, footwear and leather workers from ten African countries, including Ghana, it came to light that Africa has lost over 250,000 clothing workers over the past few years.
Countries worse affected are Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria and Swaziland. The rest include Mauritius, Zambia, Madagascar, Namibia, Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania.

The meeting noted that African government do not have a common approach to issues of trade and investment in textiles and clothing
Trade unionists have proposed a summit in Africa on the future of the textile, clothing and footwear industries with greater participation by trade unions, investors and governments, in order to develop commitments for a common action plan towards the growth of the industry.
Source: Public Agenda

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