Fish farmer laments Covid-19 impact; seeks gov’t support

With Ghana spending over $200 million annually on fish import, a number of people have gone into aquaculture to bridge the production deficit.

It’s past midday and the news team is at the Watergold Fisheries in Teshie in Accra. Here, there is strict adherence to Covid-19 safety protocols.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company, Emmanuel Tsigbey meets  us. He tells me how the advent of Covid-19 has impacted on his business.

According to him, the aquaculture business started in February 2020, just before the Ghana recorded its first case of COVID-19.

Located at Teshie in the Greater Accra region, the Watergold Fisheries is into catfish farming, a rather unpopular venture, unlike Tilapia farming in Ghana.

Emmanuel says, he started with 1,500 juvenile and fingerlings with the support of his wife and mother-in-law. But how did he get himself in this industry?

“Before I actually started this, I worked in the investment banking space, but unfortunately our license was revoked as a result of the financial sector cleanup. And also because I have always had the vision of going into agriculture as part of the various things I wanted to do in life”, he explained.

He said he started with personal savings, investing Sixty Thousand Ghana Cedis (GHȻ 60,000).  The tarpaulin fish farming method is what is in use. Water is pumped from a polytank into the pond.  The farm currently has six of such ponds.

There is a system which filters the water to ensure the right quality and temperature for the catfish.  The farm currently employs 3 people.

“It’s quite an expensive setup which has cost us a lot of money. It cost about GHȻ 60,000 to get the Tarpaulins and filtering system. To put in the water system, we use borehole”

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The total fish consumption in Ghana is estimated at one million metric tonnes.

But the country currently produces just about four hundred thousand (400, 000) tonnes, with imports of some six hundred thousand (600,000) tonnes of fish valued at over USD 200 million per annum.

At Watergold Fisheries, on a daily basis, 15KG bag of feed is fed the fishes. Emmanuel is new to the aquaculture business. He says it has not been easy.

“The initial cost incurred was actually borne with our own resources, but we are looking forward to some government assistance to expand the farm”, he pleaded.

He says  the Covid-19 pandemic has hit his business hard.

“Because of the lockdown, some of our customers especially the restaurants shutting down, sales dipped because they were not buying as they used to.  Basically there have been a bit of a slowdown”

He tells Covid-19 has offered the aquaculture business the chance to look at alternative sources of cheaper feed.

Access to extension officers has not been easy.

Farm Manager, Fidel Lawson; who was into Electrical Engineering, Masonry and sometimes painting said COVID-19 offered him a chance to venture into agriculture.

“It doesn’t mean you should set up your own farm. But you can invest in someone’s farm and find your way out to make money out of farming”

To him, access to finance is a challenges calling on government to assist young people.

He encouraged the youth to venture into agriculture to earn a living. Mother-in-law of the CEO, Gertrude Aboagye has been instrumental in the operations of the farm.

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“We are still taking good care of them. We have people coming in to buy. We have also been advertising for people to come.  We are doing everything possible to offload this and start with a new consignment hopefully by the end of December”, she said.

Daniel Darko, a first year Junior High School student who has been assisting with running the farm shares his experience sitting at the feet of Emmanuel.

“I now know how to wash the filters, catch the fishes, wash the ponds and fetch the feed for them.  When it is time for feeding, I am the one who fetch their feed and I know how much to feed them. We feed them depending on their size”, he said.

He tells the news team he has plans for the future.

“I will like to go into it because I have seen how it is done and I’m getting the understanding”

As Ghana marks the 2020 Farmers Day on November 6, Media General says AYEEKOO’ to all our hardworking farmers whose toils and sweat continue to feed the nation.

By Isaac Amekor||Ghana