Members of Cement Importers and Traders Association (CITA) have condemned the Gambia government’s new duty hikes on cement imports as a “bias tactics” aimed at kicking out individual importers out of the market. 

They claimed the anti-competition policy was instituted by the government to favour powerhouse importers like Jah Oil, Salam, and Gacem.

“This move seemingly favours cement importation via vessels, a domain predominantly controlled by three bagging operators:  Jah Oil, Salam, and Gacem, who employ a fraction of the workforce of the small-scale importers. The import duty has skyrocketed from D30 per bag to an exorbitant D180,” the group said in a statement shared with Gambiana.

A source within the group told Gambiana on condition of anonymity that we used to pay D5,000 to custom as excise tax around 2021-2022 but they’ve increased that to D30,000 at the end of 2022 and they just increased that amount to over D100,000 just to favour Jah Oil and Salam.”

A letter from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs seen by Gambiana with a directive from the cabinet, instructed the Gambia Revenue Authority “to introduce an Excise tax of 3.00 per kg on imported bagged Portland (excluding white cement) cement to provide protection for the local manufacturing and re-bagging companies.”

The letter dated 16 April is an instruction from the government as part of “industrial support measures”. It covers other areas such as agriculture and beverage. 

However, CITA has dismissed claims of companies manufacturing cement in the Gambia as “untrue”. 

 “There is one fact that the Gambia government would like you to overlook; Gambia does not manufacture cement. All cement consumed in the country is imported. The Gambia lacks local cement manufacturing capacity, necessitating reliance on imports. 

“While the three bagging operators, Jah Oil, Salam and Gacem, import loose cement via vessels, smaller-scale importers bring in bagged cement via road networks,” the group added.

The group disputed that the government’s new import hikes “specifically targeting imports from Senegal, effectively blocking this crucial import channel, would ultimately pressure construction costs”, adding that “the state decision will further put more burden on Gambians, citing that The Gambia depends on Senegal for various construction materials, like basalt and iron rods.

“Imposing these duties contradicts the essence of promoting trade within the ECOWAS. It’s concerning that the Gambian government is enforcing this policy at a time when Senegal is undergoing a presidential transition. 

“Moreover, considering Senegal’s role as an ECOWAS member providing security assistance to The Gambia, this move appears particularly ill-timed and in poor taste.”

When contacted the government spokesperson Ebrima G. Sankareh told Gambiana he was not aware of the hike and directed our reporter to the minister of trade, Baboucarr Joof.

Minister Joof told Gambiana that his ministry is not aware of the matter and would make a follow up reaction to the claims of the importers.  

Gambiana has contacted Jah Oil, Gacem and Salam for comment but have yet to respond up to the time of going to press.

Reporting by Adama Makasuba 

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