By Lamin Cham
The Gambia Ports Authority has stated that it is a misconception that port handling charges are responsible for all the increases in the cost of business transactions in The Gambia including high price of basic commodities.
In a write-up shared with The Standard, the GPA management explained that if anything, the port handling charges were reduced by 55% since 2013, whereby only D750 and D1,500 are charged for a 20ft and 40ft container respectively.
“Demurrage is also charged for containers that remain uncleared beyond the free period allowed and that is fixed at a maximum of D23,000 for 20ft and D46,000 for 40ft containers, irrespective of the length of stay, and that not withstanding, waivers are usually accorded on the demurrage charges where hardship is involved. Vehicles are charged D500 for saloon cars and D750 for Jeep, trucks and larger units on demurrage,” the GPA said.
Generally, according to the GPA, the major causes of the high cost of basic commodities are attributable to external factors, which are beyond the control of government.
“Findings have revealed that the continuous existence of the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted global supply chains resulting in high freight cost. It is established that, for example, the freight cost to Banjul has increased by over 100% since November 2020 from an average cost of US$2,750 (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 GPA said.
The authority further stated that the price of oil, which is a determinant factor on commodity prices continued to rise from the slump in mid-2020 with a barrel of Brent Crude oil increased from US$42.3 (about D2,115) as at November 2020 to US$63.8 (about D3,190) as of 13th April 2021, representing an increase of 50.83%.
The GPA said 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 because of these externalities.
“However, it is still worthy of note that despite the external factors on the domestic price of commodities, some of the internal factors may exacerbate the situation. These include demurrage charges levied on importers by shipping lines as a result of the congestion at the port; the reintroduction of 20% reduction of the indicative values by the Gambia Revenue Authority; the registration fees of Food Safety and Quality Assurance by food establishments; some of the local fees charged by shipping lines; increases in the freight levy charged by Gambia Maritime Administration, among others,” the GPA said.
“The main collaborator of the GPA in goods clearance at the Port of Banjul, which is GRA operates a self-assessment regime under the Asycuda platform whereby importers make their own declaration depending on the relevant commercial transactions, thus serving to facilitate trade.”