DISCREET AND painstaking investigations conducted by Wojaku reveal that non-Ghanaians have infiltrated the agro wholesale and retail industry, with dire consequences in investment loss not only to indigenous traders on our Accra markets but also Ghanaians as a whole.
As we do this piece Tuesday, Burkinabes, who previously exported vegetables, including tomatoes and onions, have pitched camp at Railways, CMB and Agbogbloshie offloading tons and tons of vegetables in violation of the existing trade policies which prohibit foreigners or aliens from trading locally in agriculture – whether at the level of retail or wholesale – in the informal sector. Whilst companies may operate in the agricultural sector, the law says they are required to do so only in partnership with Ghanaians or Ghanaian entrepreneurs.
This is aside of the case of young Nigerians, on the other hand, who have taken over the electronic and non-perishable trade at various points in the country, including even street hawking – from Kaneshie through the TUC-Workers College stretch to Novotel.
However, the vegetable trade, a predominantly indigenous agro-business employing Gas, is invaded by Burkinabes, who are now operating particularly at Agbogbloshie – Accra’s thriving but intrigue-riddled wholesale foods market in which a culture of illegal levying of commodities is making market goons richer than traditional authorities and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA).
Day in day out, farmers and their agents from Burkina Faso – backed by local goons with no trading capital – zoom onto the market with huge trucks laden with vegetables, which they distribute without recourse to the existing trade culture that enjoins markets women, particularly wholesalers, to offload on scheduled days.
The nature of the local agro trade is that a normal trader leaves base to the hinterland, spending one or half a day to reach farm-gate; accesses his or her load and returns next day to trade on the following day. For the local trade therefore, it may be normal, as long as that schedule does not interfere with the economic activity, to do two rounds in a week as wholesaler – in the local trade. Next, two or three days are used by the trader to collect monies due her from retailers because retailers, for lack of credit, buy on credit basis from wholesalers who risk their lives to jump onto trucks and trek into the hinterland to bring food down.
For the cross-border trade in vegetables or any other commodities, for that matter, it takes a whole day to get into farm gates in Burkina Faso; a whole day to search and sort out or grade the vegetable before packing them and another day to return to Accra to distribute. This scenario indicates that for the wholesale agro trade, a trader may need one week to do genuine business, including two or three days to recoup your investment for the next trip.
Unfortunately, most of these aliens and foreigners and their local agents engaged in this unregulated dumping of agricultural commodities on our markets, do so everyday, resulting in post-harvest losses and pollution of the existing drains with rotten vegetables, including onions and tomatoes.
Apart from that, those local agents who contract the Burkinabes, make their monies not through genuine sale of the commodities at acceptable prices, but mere levying of the commodities crate by crate – in which case no risk falls on such agents doing business in Accra.
Incidentally, when these foreigners complain about poor sales, the local agents threaten them by trying to bring in the police to drive them away. Incidentally, too, most of these agents doing vegetable trade do not carry credible identities that would make them culpable before the law when Burkinabes raise the issue back home with their Agric or Trade Ministry.
On several occasions in Burkina Faso, Ghanaian traders have been hauled before gendarmes and drivers engaged in duping Burkinabes arrested and prosecuted – when they identify Ghanaian vehicles that carry cargoes in which they lose through the activities of our local agents who bring them in.
Trade at the level of markets, particularly in foodstuffs, is usually indigenous. The Ewe and Ada people, for instance, at various seasons bring in dried fish and vegetables; the Akans bring in staples like maize and yam or plantain and kontomire.
Smoked fish, vegetables like okro, pepper and tomatoes are the commodity in which Gas trade. Urbanization has not only tightened the markets, compelling a policy of regulation of trading activities; but also led to a shortchanging of indigenous Gas in trades and occupations in which their forebears occupied and which they were introduced into.
Gradually, the Gas are losing out in the agro trade and very soon, their men would have the unpleasant opportunity of bearing all the family responsibilities alone unless something is done, and quickly too.
Lamenting on the issue, an official of the Ghana National Tomatoes Traders Association in Accra said “the situation is very, very pathetic…and that is why the call on the AMA to disregard CMB and Railways for instance as markets in order to regulate the trading activities on the Central Business District is a welcome idea”.