The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI), is engaging stakeholders to solicit their input for a draft national sugar policy to help revamp the industry and make it a globally competitive one.
The policy seeks to provide an enabling infrastructural and institutional environment for a globally competitive private sector sugar industry, to help reduce foreign exchange expenditure on imported sugar, contribute to rural industrial development and provide supplementary electricity through co-generation for the national grid.
According to MOTI, Ghana imports substantial quantities of sugar and is the 18th most valuable product imported in 2013 and fourth largest food import after rice, fish, and poultry.
In 2011, the country spent $ 187 million to import 494,000 metric tonnes (M/T) of sugar and by 2030 sugar consumption is projected to rise to 872,000 MT.
Sugar is important in terms of food security as well as for foreign exchange and consumption is growing rapidly.
The West Africa sub-region, to which Ghana could export duty-free, is also projected to experience more rapid sugar consumption growth than any other region in the next five years.
The policy forum is, therefore, to coordinate and regulate the relationships between different stakeholders, such as growers and millers, and ensure investors of commitment to the necessary infrastructures, such as feeder roads, water and electricity access; and funding for crop research institutes and out-grower schemes.
It also seeks to ensure that Ghana offers an attractive investment regime to beat alternative investment opportunities in rival economies, particularly in West Africa.
Mr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, the Trade Minister, said the absence of a policy in the 1960s had contributed to the current state of the industry and expressed the hope that the new policy would help reduce the importation of sugar into the country and make Ghana a net exporter.
Mr. George Fynn, Head, Policy Planning Monitoring and Evaluation of MOTI, said Ghana has lessons to learn from sugar production domestically as well as from abroad.
Sugar was produced in Ghana between the 1960s and 1980s yet failed due to excessive governmental controls, inappropriate soviet-era factories, difficulties with spare parts and the failure of government to facilitate infrastructure development, he said.
“Despite significant demand for sugar, domestic production remains zero. Yet Ghana enjoys the climatic and soil preconditions necessary to produce sugar. Agronomic studies continue to emphasise the potential for sugar production in Ghana, particularly in the drier northern regions, and have identified specific locations with attractive drainage, water resources, and topographical attributes,” Mr Fynn noted.
Sugar production requires substantial long-term investment, which could amount to as much as $ 700 million for a modern sugar estate.
The prior enactment of legislation and policy would assure investors of policy alignment and protection of their investments.
Mr Samuel Anum, UNIDO Capacity Building Projector Coordinator, who took stakeholders through the policy, said drawing from the existing sugar policies of some producing countries and situational analysis of the Ghanaian context, eight strategic objectives were identified to comprise the Ghana National Sugar Policy.
These are the provision of land, infrastructure development, human resource development and processing and manufacturing.
Others are research and development, financing and tax framework, institutional capacity development and legal and regulatory framework.
He said meeting these strategic directions would require solving challenges across many ministries, departments, and agencies.
“From this Ghana National Sugar Policy, a Sugar Policy Delivery Unit has been established with the remit and authority to coordinate the implementation of this Policy across Ministries Department and Agencies,” Mr Anum said.
The Policy Delivery Unit would also provide support services to investors, coordinate state requirements of investors, and ensure that the Ghana National Sugar Policy addresses sugar investments.