QUANTITIES OF bags of rice are smuggled from neighbouring Cote D’Ivoire in articulated trucks into the country on daily basis, painstaking investigations by DAILY GUIDE has uncovered.
The regrettable development is denying the government huge sums of monies for the effective and fast development of the country as perpetrators of the act evade tax payment.
The rice smuggling menace has cropped up because of huge tariffs on the importation of rice into the country as compared to the situation in Ghana’s neighbouring countries, notably Cote D’Ivoire.
Whilst a bag of rice attracts a duty fee of a whooping US 37 Dollars in Ghana; that same bag of rice is imported to Cote D’Ivoire at a meager fee of US 12 Dollars.
And stakeholders in the industry that spoke to DAILY GUIDE on anonymity laid the blame of the rice smuggle right on the door step of the ruling government for charging high fees on rice imported into the country.
The rice smuggle are usually carried out at some vantage border towns that link Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire and the evil doers are said to include nationals of the two West African countries.
DAILY GUIDE checks revealed that the ill-motive acts which are draining the country huge coffers are currently prevalent in border towns like Sampa, Nkrankwanta, Gonokrom and Kofi Badu Krom all in the Brong Ahafo region.
A visit to Nkrankwanta revealed a pathetic scenario of bags of rice being smuggled in huge quantities by these unscrupulous people into the country with authorities consenting to their evil deeds.
The goods are transported by trucks from Ivory Coast in foreign plated trucks and they load them in Ghana cargo after which they send them to Kumasi, a resident of Nkrankwanta disclosed on anonymity.
At Sampa, another transit point between Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire, the story was the same as residents of the area narrated that rice are smuggled into the country at will, especially during the night to avert arrest.
At another visit to Kofi Badukrom, DAILY GUIDE was told by the townsfolk that the smuggling of rice was the order of the day as they even accused the Immigrations and CEPS officers of being a party to the shameful act.
But the CEPS and Immigration officers that spoke to the paper on anonymity last Sunday morning denied any smuggling of rice into the country at their duty post.
Also at Gonokrom, residents disclosed that not a single day pass without they seeing people smuggling rice into the country via unapproved routes and they went ahead to slam authorities for being unconcerned.
Meanwhile, DAILY GUIDE’S checks at various markets in Kumasi have revealed that prices of rice keep soaring as the minutes tickle, bringing severe hardship on the ordinary Ghanaian in the process.
For instance, a 5 kilogram bag of Uncle Sam rice has suddenly jumped from GH 11 to an astonishing price of GH 14 within a matter of some few days to the chagrin of buyers.
Also, 25 kilograms of rice which was being sold at GH 50 has been raised to an alarming price of GH 75, a development which is also impacting negatively on the ordinary Ghanaian.
But the sellers of the essential commodity insisted that they are not to be blamed as they unanimously accused the government of imposing huge tariffs on rice importation into the country.
In a related development, Mr. Kofi Nsiah, Vice Chairman, Ghana/Ivory Coast Rice Importers Association has chastised the government for being unconcerned about the smuggling of rice into the country.
In an interview with DAILY GUIDE, he said his group recently reported the ascendancy of rice smuggling into the country from the Cote D’Ivoure borders to the Vice President John Dramani at a meeting.
Looking worried, he said, the government has so far failed woefully to act and this has paved way for the perpetrators of the lamentable act to increase the tempo at which they conduct the illegal business of smuggling rice.
Mr. Nsiah who seemed like giving up hope, predicted that the prices of rice would continue to soar since the government now seems not to care about the poignant development.
According to him the poor consumers of rice would suffer the most if the current deplorable trend continued, expressing hope that the government would for once listen to the cry of numerous Ghanaians by reducing the duty fee on rice to help stop the smuggle.
From I.F. Joe Awuah Jnr., Kumasi.