Ghana, which consumes over 950,000 metric tons of fish annually, currently imports more than 60 per cent of its fish.
While in 2016 the country imported 192,131.47 tons of fish, the figure increased by 2.57 per cent in 2017 to 197,063.45 tons.
Expectedly, the value of fish imports also rose from $131 million in 2016 to $146 million in 2017, representing 11.22 per cent increase.
The government, in an effort to reduce fish imports and boost the country’s production, has begun the development of a commercially viable aquaculture industry.
As one of the fastest growing food-producing sectors in the world, aquaculture holds abundant job creation opportunities, while addressing the fish production deficit.
It also has the potential to reduce the annual fish import bill of over US$146 million.
So how do we ensure that this promising industry is well marketed to attract the needed private sector investment?
Changing the narrative
The Fisheries Commission, in an effort to champion a vibrant aquaculture industry, in November last year, initiated and hosted the first Ghana Aquaculture Expo at the Heroes Park in Kumasi during the 34th National Farmers Day (NFD).
The programme, which lasted for a week, brought together a distinct blend of fish farmers, fish processors, fish traders, aquaculture equipment suppliers, feed producers, researchers, potential aquaculture investors, scientists, students and other relevant industry stakeholders.
Held on the theme: ‘Fish Farming For food and Jobs’, it presented an opportunity for stakeholders to engage, establish connections and strengthen business ties.
The expo, which is expected to be replicated this year, brought on display an array of useful aquaculture inputs and technologies. On display were aerators, harvesting nets, water test kits, oxygen cylinders and regulators, scoop nets, chest waders, life jackets and hormones.
While the inputs were on display to give potential investors an insight into what is needed to venture into the industry, emerging technologies in the industry were also demonstrated for the public to have more knowledge about the market availability of the industry.
One of the emerging technologies believed to have the potential to change the face of the aquaculture industry in the country is the innovative collapsible fish pond which originated from Brazil.
It uses a closed recirculation system which allows easy management of the pond. Currently, a collaborative effort between the Ashanti Regional office of the Fisheries Commission and the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is exploring the viability of its usage on a commercial scale in the country.
The recirculation system, which comprises a collapsible tank, uses two 30-watt AC submersible pumps of capacity 1,950 l/h to ensure aeration and recirculation of the pond water.
The tank is easy to handle and can accommodate between 300 to 1,000 fingerlings of 20g average weight of tilapia and catfish to be fattened to a size of at least 300g and 800g, respectively, within a period of four to five months. This recirculation technology is suitable for almost all locations.
It holds the promise to boost aquaculture nationwide, as it can be fixed anywhere without difficulty due to its collapsible nature. It is relatively cheaper than a cage. It is suitable for urban and peri-urban aquaculture and, therefore, can be targeted particularly to attract the youth into aquaculture.
The enthusiasm shown during the expo by patrons was an indication of how eager aquaculture operators were, and the need for effective engagement with them.
The good faith and openness demonstrated during the forum did not only help in disseminating information but also in gathering important feedback.
Another good news that should excite potential investors in the aquaculture industry is the development of an aquatic animal health policy to address challenges in the sector and ensure safe fish farming in the country.
With support from the World Bank, and spearheaded by the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD), the policy, which is under preparation, is expected to provide guidelines for the industry’s operations and development.
The writer is a communications specialist with the West Africa Regional Fisheries Project (WARFP)