“But it is difficult,” he explains. “It is very expensive bringing them from the Eastern Region. So I buy what I get from suppliers nearby. I know from experience that the Akosombo strain is preferable, but I have no choice. The large fish farmers have vans that supply tilapia to the towns and cities, so why can’t the hatcheries do the same? Apart from helping us to avoid mortalities on our farms, they will make more money.”
At a recent fish health workshop Jacques Magnee, technical director at Raanan Feeds, discussed health challenges which have been faced recently by Raanan’s client farmers. Outbreaks of Streptococcus agalactiae, he said, had affected farms since last July and have caused up to 20 per cent mortalities. The bacteria are becoming antibiotic-resistant, and – in the absence of available Streptococcus-resistant strains in the region, the most effective antidote is vaccination. Unfortunately, many pond farmers swear by antibiotics, and do not agree to use vaccines until significant losses are registered.
Magnee also emphasizes the need to address the use of small fingerlings and the transportation of fingerlings over long distances. These issues, he says, were associated with high mortalities, and he suggests collaboration between industry regulators and farmers’ associations to plug this important gap. Even surviving fish, he says, spend a lot of effort fighting disease instead of growing. They are affected by pathogens which cause weakness, slow growth and low feed intake.
He emphasizes the importance of the link between foreign exchange stability and stable prices of inputs, and expressed the hope that Ghana will avoid the currency devaluations which caused prices of imported ingredients to appreciate. Imported ingredients such as soya meal and vaccines are crucial to the work of feed input manufacturers and the efficiency of fish farm operations. Exchange rate mechanisms must be used to keep their prices stable, in order to bring aboard the many fish farmers who are compounding substandard feed on-farm and avoiding “expensive” commercial feeds. In a separate discussion, he said that Raanan was prepared to consider using substitutes for imported ingredients like soya meal, if their viability is proven and reliable supply can be guaranteed.
Although quite a few water bodies in Ghana have been polluted by the operations of illegal gold miners, Lake Volta has been spared. Magnee believes that this freedom from environmental challenges should enable the lake’s farmer to maximise output.
“Lake Volta’s water is not contaminated by any source of pollution from mining, industrial pollution from big cities or intensive agricultural activities. This therefore presents the opportunity for fish farmers to produce naturally high-quality fish for the local market,” he argues.