The Food and Beverages Association of Ghana (FABAG) has appealed to the government to halt the implementation of the proposed Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) tariff harmonisation until neighbouring countries were ready to reciprocate.

According to FABAG, existing regional distortions will be accentuated and trade in Ghana will suffer to the detriment of the economy, government revenue and employment if Ghana goes ahead to implement the ECOWAS harmonised tariffs.

Government has already signaled that it will increase and implement the harmonised ECOWAS tariffs on rice, poultry products and sugar, which ECOWAS member countries proposed to implement in relation to import taxes.

The President of FABAG, John Awuni said although the Association was not against government's implementation of taxes to generate more income, rice production in the country was woefully inadequate to satisfy the demands of Ghanaian consumers. He was of the view that the increases would have negative rippling effects on consumers as people consume more imported rice than the local brands due mainly to availability, reliability and high quality. Mr. Awuni said the tariffs could create rice shortage as importers would be compelled to sell at much higher prices.

“Already, Ghanaian rice importers are paying higher taxes to the tune of 40% compared to their West African neighbours and the implementation of the harmonised ECOWAS tariffs will further raise it to more than 50% which will not only encourage smuggling from neighbouring countries, but will also cause price hikes, create a shortage of the commodity and unemployment,” he said.