Rejoinder: GPA Statement Carried in the Press Purporting that the CBG Governor Confirms the Hike in Prices of Basic Commodities is Attributed to Port Charges in Banjul
It could be recalled that some time in March this year, when there was a public outcry in the high cost of basic commodities, the Ministry of Trade convened a stakeholders consultation involving GRA, GPA, shipping lines, major importers, clearing agents and other actors to determine the causes of such increases.
Following the consultation process, a press statement was issued by the same Ministry, excerpts of which indicated that their findings and observations revealed that the continuous existence of the coronavirus pandemic, has disrupted global supply chains resulting in high freight cost. It was also established that the freight cost to Banjul has increased by over 100% since November 2020 from an average cost of USD2, 750 [about D137, 500] per 20ft Container to USD 5,750 [about D287, 500].
The pandemic has also scaled down the global production level, and caused high prices of essential commodities in the international market. The international commodity prices have been surging from April 2020. The price of oil, which is a determinant factor on commodity prices continued to rise from the slump in mid-2020. The Price of a barrel of Brent Crude was USD42.3 [about D2, 115] as at November 2020 and it was USD63.8 [about D3, 190]as of 13th April 2021 representing an increase of 50.83%. The Gambia being a net importer of food like many other developing countries continues to feel the impact of the pandemic in the domestic market in a form of price hikes, the stakeholders consultation revealed.
It is still worth mentioning that despite the external factors on the domestic price of commodities, which to a large extent are beyond the control of the Government, some of the internal factors may exacerbate the situation. These include demurrage charges [levies on importers by a shipping line] as a result of the congestion at the port; and the reintroduction of 20% reduction of the indicative values by the Gambia Revenue Authority [GRA], and the registration fees of Food Safety and Quality Assurance (FSQA) by food establishments and some of the local fees charged by shipping lines and increases in the freight levy charged by Gambia Maritime Administration.
Despite the fact that most of these actors operate within the maritime domain, it is usually a misconception that it is the Port that is responsible for all the increases in the cost of business transactions.
It is on record that the GPA has taken efficiency improvement measures to address the increased demand on the Port facility due to the growth in volume over the past 4 years that is the major cause of the congestion. These are interim measures to alleviate the sitaution, while the GPA has commenced public tender for the preliminary engineering design, ESIA and bankability investment assessment for capacity improvements under the 4th Banjul Port Expansion Project.
It is hoped that Government will continue to assist in the realization of the project development needs of the Port to enhance its potential to sustain and improve productivity and faciltate trade to reduce the cost of doing business and increase the country’s attractiveness to serve as a trade and logistics hub for the sub region.