By Tabora Bojang
The Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment has told lawmakers that ships using Dakar for goods coming to Banjul is a ‘bonus to the economy’ because were it not for that Gambians would have witnessed even higher prices for basic food commodities amid congestions at Banjul ports.
Seedy Keita was responding to concerns by NAMs over the high volume of goods bound for The Gambia being transited through Dakar.
The minister said high congestion at Banjul port and attendant high tariffs for importers and the commissioning of the Senegambia Bridge in 2019, are factors responsible for importers opting for Dakar port.
According to him, the current hike in commodity prices is also influenced by charges incurred by importers as a result of delays at the Banjul port.
“These two conditions have led to many businesses preferring to send their goods through the port of Dakar where vessels are more frequent and freight charges are relatively cheaper. Our engagement with GPA reveals serious limitations in the handling capacity and as a result the ships that call to Banjul are not able to dock on time resulting in huge charges and demurrage charges are internationally determined by shipping lines as a factor of the time and the expense incurred and the longer the waiting time the more the charges. In fact, part of the commodity price increase is due to the charges that ships coming to Banjul are paying.”
The minister argued that the regional policy of Ecowas is to encourage free movement of goods and services and the fact that ships are using Dakar for goods coming to Banjul is a ‘bonus to the economy’ and poses no revenue losses.
“Apart from the port’s handling charges the same tariffs apply across all crossing points and the bridge also collects fees for goods crossing so it is a bonus to the economy,” Keita claims.
Asked whether such higher volumes of goods bound for Gambia being transited through Dakar is contributing to the rise of prices of food commodities, the minister replied in the negative stating that rising commodity prices is as a result of global phenomenon and 80 percent external factors.
“We believe using the Port of Dakar which has lower charges and is more efficient in handling will definitely be a plus and where it not for that we would have expected higher prices because congestion and demurrage at the port of Banjul far exceeds the one in Dakar,” he added.