The Corona virus as said has come to stay with us until a vaccine is developed to cure it. This pandemic has impeded economic activities globally.
The economic impediment of the pandemic has negatively affected the aquaculture sector resulted in a sharp drop of about 33% in fish prices.
In an interview with some of the fish farmers, Mr. Emmanuel Eli Yeboah, the owner of the Total Solution Farms at Konongo in the Ashanti Region said that the prices of the tilapia have reduced from eighteen Ghana cedis (GHC18) per kilogram to twelve Ghana cedis (GHC12) per kilogram at his farm gate.
According to him, despite the fact that the price has dropped, customers are not purchasing the fishes.
“Our customers are not coming to the farm gate to purchase the fishes because of the social distancing protocols and restrictions imposed by the government on tourism and hospitality. Some are also hoarding their monies because of the breakdown of the economy”, he said.
Speaking to Agric Today, Mr. Yeboah said that the sharp drop in the fish price has collapsed their farms.
He added that he cannot purchase fingerlings to stock in his pond due to the accumulation of huge debt of feed-in keeping the fish in the water.
“I have laid off all my fifteen (15) workers because I cannot harvest to pay them, I am working alone just to maintain the pond to prevent it from blighting,” he cried out.
Mr. Johnson Doe Mensah, the Farm Manager at WNT Enterprise at Akuse disclosed that the drop of the fish prices amid the pandemic has compelled him to lay off three (3) workers.
“We used to expand the farm every harvest but due to huge decrease in revenue for the past 4 months. We are unable to expand and this has accounted for laying off of some of our workers, our business is collapsing and we need government support as urgent as possible,” he said.
The farm manager of Tasmen Farm, Kwasi Amponsah said that he is struggling to meet financial contractual obligations with his lenders.
”Despite the fact that prices have drop, customers are not purchasing, we the smallholder farmers are desperate to sell at any price to recover some of our investments”, he shared tears.
Speaking to the Chamber of Aquaculture Ghana on how to curb the menace of their members, the CEO, Jacob Adzikah told Agric Today that, fish farmers should not only depend on selling at the farm gate at this era.
“Farmers should take advantage of this era to market their fishes online. The Chamber in collaboration with Akuafo Market has provided a free online platform for our farmers with a huge or small stock of fish to sell. I would plead with their indulgence to register their fish products at www.akuafomarket.com”, he said.
Again, he said though some farmers have applied for the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP) stimulus package they have not received the loan yet, he is optimistic that the farmers would receive the loan sooner.
The Chamber pleaded with government to include imported fish feed raw materials in the agriculture inputs exemption list for fish feed production. This can significantly bring down the cost of fish feed in the market and sustain aquaculture production amid and post COVID-19.
Also, members of the Chamber are urging the government to encourage state institutions such as schools, hospitals, security services, etc. to patronize locally produced fish.
The Chamber of Aquaculture Ghana is also advocating for an expansion of the mandate of the National Buffer Stock Company to include locally produced fish.
Government projection for aquaculture industry producing 69,000 metric tonnes in 2020 may not be fulfilled as two times production cycles per year is disrupted and some farmers are folding up after getting rid of their stock, the government and the stakeholders should see this as a matter of urgent and act upon it.