Official first-quarter trade figures released by the Ghana Shippers Authority have revealed the severity of the impact of Covid-19 on the country’s maritime sector, with significant declines in all aspects of the business.
The total volume of cargo—comprising both containerised and general cargo—handled by the country’s two seaports in the first quarter of 2020 decreased by a whopping 44.9 percent year-on-year, the data showed.
The volume recorded was 3.8m metric tonnes compared with the 6.9m metric tonnes recorded for the same period of 2019.
The import trade volume for the first quarter stood at 2.7m metric tonnes, representing a 24.5 percent fall year-on-year, while the export trade volume registered 996,331 metric tonnes, representing a 66.1 percent fall year-on-year.
The total volume of transit cargo—that is, cargo moved to Ghana’s landlocked neighbours—and transshipped cargo—that is, cargo moved to neighbouring ports by sea—was 79,629 metric tonnes, indicating a 76.1 percent drop year-on-year.
The transit volume alone amounted to 72,212 metric tonnes. Of this, imports recorded 54,581 metric tonnes, representing a 79 percent decrease over the 256,515 metric tonnes recorded for same period of 2019. Transit export recorded 17,631 metric tonnes, representing a 6 percent dip over the 18,824 metric tonnes recorded in the previous period.
The Port of Tema handled 2.96m metric tonnes of total sea-borne trade in the first quarter, representing 79 percent of the total, while the remaining 804,437 metric tonnes was handled by the Port of Takoradi.
Covid-19 has affected global trade negatively, with global merchandise trade falling by 3 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2020, according to the World Trade Organisation.
Ghana’s economy is projected to grow at its slowest pace in nearly four decades due to the effects of the pandemic. Real GDP is forecast to grow by 0.9 percent this year, a steep decline from the 6.5 percent growth rate recorded in 2019.
The sharp reduction in maritime trade activity was largely responsible for the fall in international trade tax revenue received by the government during the first half of the year. According to the government’s 2020 revised budget statement presented in July, trade tax revenue fell by 28 percent year-on-year in the period, registering GH¢2.0bn as against GH¢2.77bn in 2019.
With the pandemic still raging, maritime trade activity is likely to remain depressed relative to a year ago, although the rest of the year could see a pick-up owing to the substantial easing of the restrictions which were earlier imposed to contain the spread of the virus.
Down by a record: maritime cargo volume shrank by 44.9 percent year-on-year in the first quarter.