COVID-19 hampers Ghana's aquaculture sector growth plan
As Ghana continues with the gradual reopening of its economy after a national lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s aquaculture sector is hopoing for a quick resumption of normal operations. Jacob Adzikah, the CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Aquaculture, told SeafoodSource the sector needs the recovery of local markets and the hospitality industry, which consumes up to 90 percent of all the harvested farmed fish, in order to survive.
“Before the outbreak of COVID-19 disease, the aquaculture industry in Ghana witnessed exponential growth and contributed immensely towards national food security,” Adzikah said.
He said COVID-19, which by 9 June, had infected 10,358 people and killed 48 others in Ghana, “affected harvesting and sale of matured fish as the farmers were unable to supply the domestic markets due to stringent government measures to stop the pandemic from spreading.”
Adzikah said with the closure of Ghana’s borders, imposition of restrictions on tourism, and the shutdown of restaurants and enforcement of social distancing, fish farmers reported “increase in production cost as fish remained in cages and ponds, yet they had to be fed continuously to ensure they maintained the right weight.”
“This meant revenue loss for the fish farmers and hiccups in their cash flow that led to challenges in paying workers and accumulation of operational bills,” he said.
The national fish selling price shrunk as demand for fish declined during the lockdown period, which was imposed after the first two cases were confirmed on 12 March, but lifted slightly after a month by Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo, who said the West African nation had “ability to undertake aggressive contact tracing of infected people, the enhancement of our capacity to test, the expansion in the numbers of our treatment and isolation centers."
“Aquaculture entrepreneurs in Ghana have been negotiating with their creditors and suppliers for how to restructure their credit and supply agreements during the COVID-19 containment period,” Adzikah said.
Although some of the commercial fish farmers with cold-storage capacity have been harvesting their fish, and that many farmers hads stepped up biosecurity measures to avert a possible outbreak of disease in their fish crop, the Ghanaian national demand for fish is yet to return to normalcy because of COVID-19, Adzikah said.
“Some of fish farmers have suspended their planned new stocking to avoid the risk of accruing additional operational costs,” he said.
In response to the crisis, the Ghana Chamber of Aquaculture is collaborating with the Ghana Investment Promotion Center "to help the fish farmers remain in business both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.
The COVID-19 outbreak came at a time when Ghana had launched initiatives to reverse the decline in aquaculture production, which stood at 51,120 metric tons (MT) in 2019 – down from 76,620 MT in 2018. The decline was due to outbreaks of the infectious fish spleen and kidney virus.
During the 2020 fish farming season, Ghana had expected to increase production to 69,620 MT. That figure now appears impossible for the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development to meet due to the impact of COVID-19.