By Joseph Opoku Gakpo
Article first published in Joy News and distributed by the Tropical Timber Market Report
Players in the Ghanaian wood processing industry are urging government to give them tax relief to cushion the sector against the impact of the Covid–19 pandemic.
Chairman of the Forest Industries Association of Ghana and managing director of wood processing firm Samartex, Richard Nsenkyire, says the industry has been suffering from the impact of Covid-19 since last year.
“If you take us in the export and wood processing sector, we were severely hit by last year when the Covid started in Asia. About 40 to 50% of our products are going to the Asian market.
“So when activities came to a standstill in Asia, when Ghana had not been locked down, we were already having contracts cancelled. So our activities slowed down September, October last year to-date,” he told Joy News in an interview.
The chairman, whose firm at Samreboi in the Western Region employs more than 2000 workers, said they are maintaining staff and paying their social bills, but times are tough.
“We have not been able to break. We are only operating at about 40% of our turnover. We are just struggling to end the year. But we kept faith with our workers. We haven’t laid off anyone.
“At Samartex for example, we have a lot of social costs here because of our location. Whether we produce or not, we generate our electricity. We have a big hospital with three doctors, we have a school here, we maintain all the roads you see around here, we have to provide free accommodation for our employees.
“So, whether we export 1 cubic meter, or not, I still have to maintain that accommodation. So, our overhead costs are very high,” he told Joy News.
He is calling on government to step in. “We have not received any relief. But when you see the taxes we pay to the government; it will be good to have certain tax relief. Especially during this Covid period, we cannot pay the same taxes. I think within this period where our business has been severely hit, it will be good when the Ghana Revenue Authority could come to our aid and probably give us a tax holiday for this year. If you take other levies we are paying at Forestry Commission, I think if those are suspended for the entire industry, it will help,” he says.