Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Power to produce crippled by endemic energy crises

Yaw Opoku is a local footwear producer in the Bantama suburb of Kumasi. He engages five other hands at his production shed, in the quest to meet demands of customers.

The more they produce, the higher they earn to feed themselves and their dependents. But their dependence on electricity to complete the production cycle is on the decline.

Today, Yaw and his partners cannot plan their production schedule and they are worried about their future livelihoods.

“As I speak to you now the lights are off”, Yaw complained. “We’re sitting here hoping it will be on for us to resume work. I used to go on trek every week to sell my footwear but now I go when I’ve managed to produce enough”.

These footwear producers are not alone in feeling the heat from Ghana’s inability to produce enough electricity to feed domestic, commercial and industrial consumers – from the service industry to manufacturers, the impact of the power cuts is deeply felt.

The challenges to domestic users are enormous, especially the damage caused to electrical appliances from the power fluctuations.

But manufacturers are most worried. Worst hit are the small-scale businesses, including dealers in frozen products, wielding mechanics, drinking bar operators, beauticians and dressmakers who are constrained in resorting to power generators as alternatives.

In times past, Kumasi’s industrial sector was centered in the Kaase and Ahinsan areas, where the timber firms were concentrated.

This is not the situation today as industries are now scattered across the region. Hence, any planned load shedding targeting industries will not be beneficial.

Producers are therefore finding it difficult to plan production as power goes off sometime unannounced.

The general concern among businesses and industrialists is the rising cost of production. The erratic supply of electricity does not only disrupt production but people have to invest in fuel and maintenance to run their generators.

Now the prices of petroleum products have gone up, which according to the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), are influenced by the government’s decision to withdraw subsidies on the products.

The Volta River Authority (VRA) and the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) have also called for hikes in electricity tariffs if they are to boost their capacity to deliver on the country’s energy needs.

According to local manufacturers, a persisting energy challenge would push production levels low and eventually result in layoff of workforce.

They therefore expect government to protect them against cheap imports if they are to absorb the impact of hikes in the prices of petroleum products on productivity.
 
The producers say though the volatile oil market could adversely affect their operation, the major threat is cheap and imitated imports competing with local products.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

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