11 April 2017

Ghana: Fake Textiles On the Increase

Some concerned workers in the textiles industry have condemned the pace at which people smuggle textile prints into the country, mainly from China, and sell at cheaper prices.

"There have been concerns about the pirating of local designs where the Ghana Federation of Labour has repeatedly described the situation as an infringement of intellectual property and illegal," the workers noted in a letter to the Greater Accra Regional Police Commander notifying him of an intended demonstration.

In the letter, which was dated 31st March 2017 and signed by Ebenezer Asumadu and four other leaders, the Concerned Textile Workers claimed that the smuggling of fake textiles has increased over the last few weeks as the Easter Festivities approach.

"We visited the markets and purchased some of the fake/imitated fabrics at ridiculously cheap prices which render our genuine local products unmarketable," the workers lamented.

For them, government's efforts to expand the local textile industry will not materialize unless the problem with fake textiles is dealt with.

"It will be unwise to put money in local textiles manufacturing sector without first eradicating the causes of non-competitiveness of the local products, specifically counterfeiting and smuggling, aside from the high cost of local products," the letter stressed.

According to the workers, the anti-counterfeit taskforce set up by the government to deal with the proliferation of fake textiles on the market has failed the industry that was why they are threatening to demonstrate.

"The government taskforce consisting of security personnel and other industry players has been inactive since the new administration took over in January this year. We want the work of the taskforce re-activated as soon as possible or we hit the street in protest," the textile workers revealed.

The workers want the Ministry of Trade and Industry to act swiftly reconstituting the task force to check the illegal activities of some importers and traders to save their jobs.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry established the Anti-Textile Piracy Taskforce in 2010 to clamp down on the activities of fake textile dealers.

The mandate of the taskforce is to arrest and prosecute persons involved in the smuggling and trade of counterfeit textiles.

"As at now, the operations of the taskforce have stalled for no apparent reason and our union (Textiles, Garment and Leather Employees Union) has not been able to explain the circumstances," the letter added.

The threat of losing their jobs continue to haunt the textile workers so they have appealed to the trade ministry to allow the anti-textile piracy taskforce to resume operations without further delay in the interest of sustained functioning of the local textile industry.

The workers emphasized that the activities of their employers such as the Ghana Textiles Manufacturing Company and Juapong Textiles will soon grind to a complete halt if nothing is done about the situation.

"Our union tells us that attention of the Ministry has been drawn to this development but no action has been taken as the distressed manufacturing industry grind to a halt, resulting in the loss of 20,000 jobs," they said.

Meanwhile, government has assured the workers it will not allow the textile industry to collapse as it considers it an important sector.

Chief Director at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Dawarnoba Baeka in a letter to the chairman of the Textiles, Garment and Leather Employees Union remarked that the ministry has always worked closely with the various textile unions and other stakeholders to find solutions to challenges in the sector.

"The Ministry attaches great importance to the textiles and garments sector because of its potential for jobs and wealth creation. Indeed, the sector is one of the key sectors of the Anchor Investment Programme under the new Government Industrial Transformation Agenda," the chief director added.

It would be recalled that late last year, textile manufacturing firm GTP laid off more than 130 workers over low revenues.

The local textile manufacturing sector has struggled to stay afloat over the years as a result of the above challenges. It employed more than 25,000 workers in the 1970s but now provides jobs to less than 2000 people.

The more than 130 million meters of fabric it produced has also been reduced to less than 30 million. This has resulted in the collapse of a number of textile manufacturing companies in Tema, Akosombo, and Juapong. Some of the sites which used to host such industries have been turned into warehouses and churches.

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