A GNA feature by Caesar Abagali
Tamale, April 1, GNA - The 2005 Budget Statement read by the new Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah Wiredu amply demonstrated the significance of the fishing industry to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Ghana.
The importance of the fishing industry as a source of protein in the diet of the populace and its potential as foreign exchange earner as well as avenue for employment is clear to everybody. Ghana's fishing requirements is estimated at about 800,000 metric tons and about 74,000 metric tons of fish is imported. However, against the background of foreign exchange and balance of payment difficulties it is important to turn inward to meet the fish requirement.
As illustrated in the 2005 Budget Statement, the fishing industry Sub-Sector is on the decline. It declined from 2.8 per cent of the total Agricultural Sub-Sector in 2002 to 2.6 per cent in 2003 fiscal year and 2.6 per cent in 2004 Budget year.
The country requires a policy framework to arrest this decline and to reap the immense benefits that could accrue. It is a common fact that the country abounds with numerous dams and dugouts as well as criss-crossing rivers, which make aquaculture fishing not only easy but also countrywide.
Aquaculture fishing makes immense contribution to the economies of Kenya, South Africa, Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina-Faso. These countries export fish particularly tilapia on large scale to many other African countries and to Europe, and this had helped to improve their economies. Ghana stands to benefit from the industry even better, given its landscape and could also easily export to countries north of Ghana and even Europe. If more attention were paid to the Sector, not only would the youth find permanent jobs but also the masses would continue to improve on their nutritional status.
Modern technology has made available fast growing species of fish (Gift Tilapia), which combines good taste and large size, and it is accepted all over the world, Mr Peter Schaeffers, Fish Expert and an Executive Director of NEWCO Company Limited, a fish producing company based in Navrongo, told the GNA in Tamale.
He said the country stood the chance of being among the world's biggest players in fish production if serious attention were paid to the fishing industry.
Mr Schaeffers said Ghana should not be satisfied with its gold and cocoa but the country should explore other areas such as fish resources, especially aquaculture farming to improve on the economy.
Aquaculture fish farming could be a major foreign exchange earner and employment generator for a vast majority of the people of this country. Despite the large deficits recorded in the supply of fish much attention has over the years not been placed on solving the problem. The Northern part of the country, which is relatively underdeveloped, has numerous dams and dugouts that could be used for aquaculture fish development.
When given the necessary attention, it would reduce the drift of the youth from the hinterland to the urban centres for non-existent jobs; cut down on unemployment and reduce poverty. The nation as a whole stood to reap more from aquaculture fishing.
Ghana needs to grow and through aquaculture fish farming and the country's economy would grow from strength to strength since fish is a renewable resource.