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The economy of Ghana is largely import led thus the country has become a large warehouse of imported consumer goods.

From furniture to poultry, toothpicks, vegetable oil, rice and sugar, large quantities of these commodities are imported on a yearly basis.

For instance, in 2013 about US$1.5billion was spent on the importation of various consumables into the country.

The over reliance on imports of basic commodities that could have otherwise been produced here in Ghana is a reflection of the country?s weak local currency, the cedi.

The country is continually expending huge amount of foreign currency, especially the US dollar, to import these items.

Government is, therefore, making attempts to start the production of some basic consumables to end its imports, and one of these is sugar.

Sugar is an essential ingredient for both domestic and industrial use. It is used in the production of beverages, processed foods, alcohol as well as bakery products.

It is quite surprising that despite having a high demand, not even a teaspoon of sugar is produced in the country. For instance, in 2013, the country is reported to have imported about 375,000 metric tonnes of sugar at a value of about US$300million.

Attempts to produce sugar

In the past, two sugar mills were set up to process sugar cane, but these have all ceased production and, therefore, the country relies heavily on imports from Brazil, especially.

In 1966, the Asutuare sugar factory in the Eastern Region started operations while the sugar mill at Komenda in the Central Region also began operations in 1967. Both factories have ceased productions and the country continues to import sugar to date.

The Asutuare factory had a capacity of producing 30,000 tonnes of sugar yearly, while the Komenda factory was processing 15,000 tonnes of sugar annually.

In 2014, President John Mahama cut the sod for a new sugar processing plant to be constructed at Komenda. The Indian government, according to him, was supporting the project through its EXIM bank with an amount of US$35million while the government of Ghana is also making available additional counterpart funding of about US$1.5million through the Export Development and Agricultural Investment Fund (EDAIF).

New sugar policy

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI) has begun consultations on a draft sugar policy expected to guide the implementation of the Sugar Act 1981 Act 432, which has been described as obsolete by stakeholders.

The draft sugar policy is currently being reviewed by various stakeholders prior to approval by Cabinet.

Per the new policy, government would focus attention on acquisition for land for sugar production, infrastructure development, human resource development and processing and manufacturing. Other areas to be focused on include research and development, financing and tax framework, institutional capacity development and legal and regulatory framework.

Investors from Brazil, India and China are expected to partner Government in the production of sugar as they have the requisite expertise and funds to aid this cause.

Reducing sugar import

The Chief Director at MoTI, Mr Dawarnoba Baeka, speaking at a national stakeholders forum on the draft sugar policy, said the intention of government was to reduce the import of sugar significantly.

?We import over US$400million of sugar in a year, and we all know we have a big problem with the foreign currency that we use to import. We want to start producing sugar in the next 5 years, and we want to ensure that we have a policy in place so that we don?t fall off along the way as was the case before. We need to have a strong sugar sector in Ghana,? he said.

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