The fish industry in Ghana provides jobs for people including women in smoked fish business. Photo: Reuters

By Abdulwasiu Hassan

Ghana is one Africa’s coastal countries with huge water resources but struggles to produce enough fish for local consumption.

It heavily relies on imports costing it dearly and depriving local fish farmers of great economic opportunities.

This is a situation decried by the country’s deputy minister of fisheries and aquaculture, Moses Anim.

At a recent event organized by the Chamber of Aquaculture in Ghana, Mr Anim said his ministry was determined to boost local production and reduce importation because of the concerns about the current situation.

As per Ghana News Agency quoted, he said “with all the challenges of post Covid, the countries that will survive are those that will increase their import substitution.” Fish accounts for about 60% of protein intake in Ghana.

Local media had also quoted the deputy minister as saying during an event to mark National Farmers’ Day last December that the country was spending about $240 million on fish import annually.

The country produces only about 600,000 tonnes of its annual requirement of more than 1.2 million tonnes. Experts believe Ghana’s potential promises even higher production.

Despite efforts to boost production, Ghana still relies on fish imports. Photo: Reuters

“Ghana has one of the best ecosystems for fish production. We have the river bodies, the lakes and good topography for pond construction,” Jacob Adzikah, CEO of Chamber of Aquaculture Ghana, told TRT Afrika.

He said that should give the country a comparative advantage in fish production in West Africa.

Dwindling fish

Despite the imports and efforts to increase local production, there is still a large deficit in fish supply.

The problem is historical with little or no sign of progress in the past. The quantity of fish available in the waters of the West African country is dwindling, experts say.

Illegal fishing in the country’s territorial waters including by foreign trawlers come to the forefront as one of the major challenges affecting Ghana’s efforts at ensuring fish-sufficiency, campaigners say.

Some of the trawl men allegedly catch small fish illegally – sometimes selling to less-privileged local fishermen at sea.

This illegal fish dealing locally known as ‘saiko’ is believed to be depleting fish population, short-changing Ghana of huge income and depriving the population of vital protein sources.

About 100,000 metric tonnes of fish worth between $50 and $80 million was sold in the country in 2017 through the fraudulent practice, according to Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), a group campaigning against illegal fishing.

Experts say boosting fish production will help Ghana's economy and increase protein availability. Photo: Reuters

In 2021, the Ghanaian government banned the illegal fishing and selling of small fish at sea. But some say this has not salvaged the situation with increasing concerns that Ghana’s fish population is dwindling amid growing human population.

High cost of feed

“We are approaching the point, where we will be importing fish entirely for consumption,” says Dr Kamal-Deen Ali of the Centre for Maritime Law and Security in Africa based in Ghana.

He told journalists during a workshop on tackling illegal fishing that activities of foreign vessels were depleting fish population in Ghanaian waters.

As well as tackling illegal fishing, some experts say there is the need to boost fish farming locally for the West African country to ensure self-sufficiency.

But fish farmers have numerous challenges to contend with, including high cost of fish feed. It accounts for 60% to 70% of the entire cost of fish production.

“Prices of fish feed have increased by up 200% in the past eight months,” says Jacob Adzika, the head of Chamber of Aquaculture Ghana.

There is also a lack of professional fish health services for farmers – some of whom do not have adequate knowledge on how to protect their fish fingerlings from dying.

‘We will do better’

“The interest rates that are provided when you borrow money from the bank are very high. It is around 40% at the moment,” says Jacob, pointing to another challenge.

Fish accounts for most of protein intake in Ghana. Photo: Reuters

The Ghanaian government says it has been implementing policies aimed at improving the fishery sector including an initiative known as Aquaculture for Fish and Jobs.

The initiative was launched in 2018 to provide inputs to local fish farmers in order to boost their production.

The deputy minister of fisheries and aquaculture Moses Anim had said the government was also trying to encourage local production of fish by denying fish importers direct access to foreign currency for businesses.

But Jennifer Sodji, President of Ghana Aquaculture Association feels the Ghanaian government should do more.

The authorities should reduce ‘’tariffs and taxes in the industry’’ to help bring down the cost of fish feeds which are mainly imported, Sodji tells TRT Afrika.

She says ‘’giving incentives’’ to fish farmers ‘’will help their farms to grow” to produce fish for the country. ‘’I think we will be able to do a lot in the industry,’’ she concludes.

TRT Afrika