An official of Printex, another local textile manufacturer, had suggested in an interview on the Citi Breakfast Show that ATL is not producing.
But in an interview with Citi News, the Sales and Marketing Director at ATL, Steve Dutton, admitted that inasmuch the company was going through difficult times just as other firms, it is still running and producing for the local and international market.
“As far as ATL is concerned, we like the other textile companies in Ghana has been affected badly by cheaper foreign imports specifically from China, India and places like that. Usually they come in from Togo which is a free port; so they are not paying any import duties or tax and it seems they are smuggling the goods into Ghana. It’s true to say that has affected everybody’s business in Ghana but not only because of the cheap price; but also because they are copying the designs and sometimes the brands of the local manufacturers, causing a lot of confusion in the market”.
He said although ATL has lost about fifty percent of its market share since 2005; it still employs about 1,000 workers from an initial figure of over 1,600.
“Our volume share has reduced dramatically at least by 50% or maybe more. It’s even more difficult to say when you don’t really know how much of these smuggled and pirated goods come in to compete with us because there are no official figures. Having said that, we have still managed to keep operating; we are still operating today and the factory is opened and producing; and we are managing to survive as the taskforce activities are helping”.
“Over the years that we have been struggling, we have managed not to make any people redundant from our factory. We are still employing approximately over a 1,000 people. The figure use to be around 1,600. If business can pick up and the right things are done, we might even be in the position to employ more people. I should also add that, ATL is now the only factory that has its own spinning and weaving operation, so we are still a vertically integrated factory and that’s why our workforce is quite high”.
ATL strategies for survival
Mr. Steve Dutton says one of the company’s strategies to survive amidst the challenges, is the introduction of unique products for targeted consumers.
“We also have reintroduced certain products which we previously stooped producing; for example ATL wax; which we introduced into the local market some months ago. We are also producing ABC wax which is mainly for export particularly to the big market in Nigeria and for the whole region; as well as Benin, Togo, Niger and Cote D’Ivoire. That was mainly for export, so we are also now trying to develop some unique products for the local market. The other area that has helped us to survive has been what we call institution business; that is special designs for churches, schools; companies with their logos on it. There are also special designs for marriages, funerals and other celebrations; and that business is very difficult for someone in China or in Asia to get into it, because often the people want the goods on a short notice so it’s easier for them to order it locally. So these strategies and the activities of the taskforce are all helping us to survive; it is still a struggle but our intention is to stay in the game and to be around for so many years” he added.
Impact of taskforce
Mr. Dutton believes the existence of the Taskforce on the Seizure and Disposal of Pirated Ghanaian Textile Designs (TSDPGTD), is timely since it is helping to rescue the local textile industry from total collapse.
“It’s good for the textile industry because it sends out the correct message to people. People are also reminded to patronize the local industries. We are not saying foreign goods should be banned; but those goods have to come through the country legally and the right taxes paid. I will say that the taskforce has been important and we are also doing the best we can to protect our intellectual property rights”.
He however noted that it is bit difficult to measure the impact of the taskforce since there are no official figures on the smuggled and pirated imported products. Even so, he commended the work of the taskforce and expressed optimism that their work will continue.
“It’s a bit difficult to measure the impact of the taskforce because we have no real figures on the smuggled goods coming in. But what I can say is that, the fact that ATL and other manufacturers are still operating today although we are all struggling, is because of the activities of the taskforce. If the taskforce was not there, I doubt very much whether we would have been able to continue because it would have been free for all in the market. So, we really need this taskforce to continue with its activities. I believe that gradually we are deterring traders from trading in these pirated goods because they also don’t want to lose their working capital. So I think that if we can carry on with this, eventually there will be a very significant difference in the market; and hopefully the work of the taskforce will give the local textile factories the chance to take up some of the lost market share” he added.