Increase budgetary support to aquaculture to create jobs – Chamber of Aquaculture

Increase budgetary support to aquaculture to create jobs – Chamber of Aquaculture

The Chamber of Aquaculture Ghana is calling on government to increase budgetary support for investment in the aquaculture sector, as such a move can partly address the youth unemployment situation, given the enormous potential of the industry which remains untapped.

In an interview with the B&FT ahead of the 2022 budget to be presented in Parliament sometime next week, CEO of the Chamber of Aquaculture Ghana, Jacob Adzikah, said the sector is grappling with some challenges which include the lack of requisite infrastructure such as laboratories, inadequate support from government, high cost of fish feed due to importation, among others.

These and other challenges, he said, have become a bane to the growth of the sector, as data shows aquaculture production has not been able to go past the peak figure of more than 76,000 metric tonnes it recorded in 2018, as it declined to 52,000 metric tonnes and 64,000 metric tonnes in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

“The sector has the capacity to grow over 180,000 metric tonnes per annum but at the moment, the average production is around 64,000 metric tonnes, so the gap is just too huge and we can still do better because we have the best ecosystem for fish production at the moment.

So it is based on this that we are calling for some sort of increase in budget allocation or investment in the sector. Looking at the trend and the challenges facing the sector, there are specific areas that this investment should be going and if they are going to invest into these specific areas, the industry can produce a lot,” he said.

Lack of laboratories

Mr. Adzikah further cited the infamous fish stress issue which happened in 2018 and saw a lot of fish from the country’s lake die from a virus infection as among the reasons contributing to the declining fish stock. Even though the cause of the deaths was determined, he said, the findings were made by laboratories outside the country, as there are no such facilities in the country. The Chamber is therefore calling on government to set up such laboratories in the regions as the disease still prevails in the aquaculture sector.

“The disease is still prevailing in the aquaculture sector so we are calling on the key stakeholders which is the government to invest into fish health infrastructure. We are talking about regional laboratories so that anytime a farmer notices any sign of disease at the farm, he can just take a sample and go to this lab for the analysis to be done. Then, based on the results, the health experts will prescribe solution to the problem.

But at the moment, we have limited labs and that was the reason why when the outbreak happened, most of the samples were taken out of the country before we even got to know the cause of the outbreak was a virus. So we are calling on the state to invest into laboratory infrastructure, machines and equipment so that this analysis can be done here,” he said.

Old hatcheries and processing facilities

Another challenge Mr. Adzikah pointed as blighting prospects of the aquaculture sector is the lack of hatcheries to produce quality fingerlings for the farmers which leaves them stranded looking for some from other sources which are of poor quality. The Chamber is therefore calling on government to partner the private sector in setting up modern hatcheries to produce quality fingerlings for the farmers.

“It is time for the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development to invest more into upgrading the existing hatcheries. At the moment, what we have is not modern, so we need to upgrade these facilities so that they can produce quality fingerlings. Because they are not functioning well, farmers have to rely on other sources to get fingerlings. And when the virus issue was investigated, it was partly traced to fingerlings.

So if the government can invest into these hatcheries by upgrading the existing ones and even partnering with some private sector traders to setup modern hatcheries, that will go a long way to solve the challenge of having access to quality fingerlings for the farmers,” he said.

Lack of cold storage facilities increasing post-harvest losses

A major issue the Chamber also raised has to do with increasing post-harvest losses which comes as a result of lack of cold facilities to store the fish and transport them to other markets other than the host communities of the farms. This has put farmers in the hands of middlemen, thereby, denying farmers of making the good margins out of their productions.

“One of the key challenges we have is having access to modern processing facilities where farmers, after production, can harvest, store their fish and then send it to market. And here again, it is the smallholder and medium-scale farmers who are struggling because the big commercial ones have the capacity to invest into these modern facilities. So right from the production to the market they have absolute control.

But with the smallholder farmer and the medium-scale ones, they don’t have absolute control. So it is the middlemen who determine how they can market their fish and even price it for them. As a result of that, they are not really making good margins from the production.

But if we should have some modern processing facilities like cold units, ice making machines, and cold farms in the main aquaculture hubs where aquaculture is done, famers can book for these services until their market is ready and the fish can be transported there. When it comes to the marine sector, the ministry has invested in cold facilities for them but such support doesn’t exist in the aquaculture. This investment can end post-harvest losses,” he stated.

Bring back the tax waiver on feeds

When fisheries was previously under the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Mr. Adzikah said, it enjoyed some tax waiver on imported feed. However, ever since it became a ministry on its own, such privileges have seized, thereby, increasing the cost of production in the aquaculture sector. The Chamber is, therefore, calling on government to re-introduce the policy to reduce the cost of feed for the farmers.

“In the past two years, we have been calling on government to pass some tax waiver on imported fish feed and other inputs that are used in preparing the feed. At the moment, we have at least four local manufacturers who prepare the fish feed. When fisheries was under the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, there was some sort of waiver for them but when the ministry was created out of Ministry of Food and Agriculture, that tax waiver was not given to them.

But in aquaculture production 70 percent of production cost is linked to fish feed. So if we are able to get this tax waiver on the imported fish feed or raw materials for producing fish feed, it will bring down the cost of the feed. If the cost comes down, farmers will be able to scale up production,” he said.

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