Graphic Business News

Bush meat bounces back - Four years after Ebola

By: Ama Amankwah Baafi
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Grasscutter (Akrantie) is a delicacy for many Ghanains
Grasscutter (Akrantie) is a delicacy for many Ghanains

The once vibrant and lucrative bush meat market collapsed during the outbreak of the deadly ebola virus that hit some neighbouring countries four years ago.

Although Ghana did not record any case, stories that the disease was caused by bush meat scared many lovers of the Ghanaian delicacy from patronising the meat, rendering the market a completely dead one.

Bush meat is incontrovertibly a delicacy in the Ghanaian society enjoyed by all and sundry yet, news of the virus ruined livelihoods of Ghanaians in the game business, popularly known as ‘bush meat’ (grasscutter, deer and antelope).

Traders across the bush meat value chain, including hunters, retailers, wholesalers, bar operators and bush meat/ kebab retailers along some of the major roads across the country had their businesses run down.

Traders recount / narrate
A visit to Mankesim, through Winneba, both in the Central Region and major commercial centres for bush meat revealed that most traders totally had their businesses crashed and are now trying to pick themselves up.

The usual bustle of hawking of grasscutter (akrantee) kebab by traders was missing. Most of the women traders have diverted to selling bread, boiled egg, ‘abolo’and sea food such as fried octopus to be able to earn a living.

Most chop bar operators at Mankesim, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS that hitherto, their bush meats were highly patronised such that latest by 1pm, one could not get some of the bush meat to buy.

However, the announcement that bush meat caused ebola changed customers taste from bush meat to dried fish and goat meat.

A chop bar operator at the Esuhye Lorry Station, Maame Efua Essilfua, said she had been in the business for over 20 years after inheriting it from her mother, and that she used to prepare meals with about five large-sized akrantee a day but during the ebola scare, she struggled to sell just one.

“Sales reduced drastically during the crisis. When people come to buy food and they realise it was akrantee they left. But now I can say akrantee sales has picked up. There is a change,” she said.

Another chop bar operator, who uses only fresh akrantee to prepare meals lamented that during the outbreak, he struggled to sell even two pieces of the meat.

“It really affected us. I personally found it difficult to believe it was the cause of the outbreak because it basically feeds on green leaves,”

“If you visit my bar around 12 noon, it will be difficult for you to get some of the bush meat to buy. However, since the announcement that bush meat causes ebola, not even a single customer has been here to ask of bush meat”,

“Customers’ preferences have changed from bush meat to goat meat and dried fish so we did not have any choice than to stop selling it,” he added.

Raw bush meat traders
The numerous spots along the Winneba -Mankesim road, usually inundated with bush meat, are being gradually reoccupied, unlike the empty sheds that characterised them during the period of ebola.

At Ekumfi Dunkwa, Mr Paul Cobbina, a trader of fresh and broiled bush meat of various kinds, said they could provide basic necessaries of life for their wives and children before the ebola crisis.

On weekends alone (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) he realised GH2,000 from the sale of bush meat not to talk of the week.

He said most of them had taken loans from banks and resorted to selling their vehicles to repay because their businesses totally collapsed.

At times, they were left to either consume the meat themselves or allow them to rot and throw them away.

“It happened that a whole month I couldn’t sell even one bush meat because all my retailers in our local market and other areas such as Accra, Cape Coast and Takoradi stopped buying from me as they also lost business,” he recalled.

He continued, “We really suffered. Commuters resorted to teasing us by shouting ebola oh, ebola oh. In fact, I decided to stop the trade.”

However, Mr Cobbina and his colleagues made some sales, especially during the Christmas festivities when bush meat was not in season.

Mr Kofi Nyarko, who has been  in the bush meat trading since 1979, also said  he was hit severely by the ebola problem.

“From a sale of about 10 bush meats daily I sold nothing during the outbreak. Thank God that now I can sell about six daily,” he recounted.

Price range
Big size of bush meat now sells at a maximum of GH₵200 and medium size from GH₵80 to GH₵150, while broiled one goes for a maximum of GH₵150 for large size and GH₵100 for medium size.

“The price rise indicates that but for the ebola crisis, the price of bush would have soared  by now and we will be making good business,” Mr Cobbina said.

The Ebola Virus Disease
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines the Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, as a severe, often fatal illness in humans.

The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.

The 2014–2016 outbreak in West Africa was the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976. There were more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined. It also spread between countries, starting in Guinea then moving across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Early supportive care with rehydration, symptomatic treatment improves survival. There is as yet no licensed treatment proven to neutralise the virus but a range of blood, immunological and drug therapies are under development. GB