Tilapia farming in Ghana


Are you considering aquaculture as a new business or as a way of diversifying your existing business?

If the answer to this question is yes, then you should ask yourself, "How much do I really know about aquaculture?"

Before considering aquaculture as a business, much research on requirements should be done. This research should include marketing, stocking, feeding, grading, harvesting, transport, appropriate fish species, materials and capital investments needed. There are many levels of knowledge of aquaculture; from the person who has many years experience in running a successful aquaculture operation, to the beginner who has an interest in but no knowledge of what aquaculture is or involves.

Aquaculture is the fastest growing sector of world food economy, providing nearly 50 per cent of the annual world fisheries production of 110 million tonnes in 2006. Over half of all aquaculture production is fin fish, a quarter is aquatic plants and the remaining quarter is made up of crustacea (such as shrimp, prawns and crabs) and mollusks such as clams, oysters and mussels.

Tilapia farming is an aquaculture venture which involves the propagation, cultivation and marketing of tilapia in a controlled environment. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), “aquaculture is understood to mean the farming of aquatic organisms including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Farming implies some form of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators, etc. Farming also implies individual or corporate ownership of the stock being cultivated."

Tilapia farming has become big business globally, with almost 4 million metric tonnes produced in 2011, according to the FAO. Out of this number, the production of Nile tilapia constituted about 70 per cent. There are some tilapia farming success stories in Africa, most especially in Egypt, Ghana and Uganda.  Lake Harvest in Zimbabwe and Tropo Farms in Ghana are the biggest private commercial producers of Nile Tilapia in Africa, yet their reported production for 2012 was mere 7,000 tonnes and 5,000 tonnes respectively, very modest when compared to the global production figure of about 46.6 million tonnes.

In 2011, the top 20 producers  together produced 95 per cent of world aquaculture fish. China, the world’s largest producing country, accounted for about 62 per cent of total production and it exports over 95 per cent of its production to the US and EU markets. World aquaculture production was 62.7 million tonnes in 2011 and estimated to be 66.5 million tonnes in 2012, according to the FAO. The estimated value of the 2011 production is USD 130 billion. 

Unfortunately, Africa’s contribution to global aquaculture production is very insignificant (2.2 per cent). Egypt, the eighth largest producer of farmed food fish, contributed to 70.5 per cent of Africa’s total production figure of 1.4 million tonnes.   Obviously, Africa and especially Ghana, must rise up to the occasion and tap into the vast natural resource of the Volta Lake and other water bodies.  

This is because we have the best climatic conditions for the development of a major aquaculture industry that has the potential of generating USD 207 million in 2016, USD 1.1 billion in 2020 and USD 2.07 billion in 2014, according to the National Aquaculture Development Plan. I am, therefore, making a clarion call to all who are interested in helping to develop this sector by way of quality feed development, fingerling production, processing of fish and training of human capital to come together to make this a reality.

The main business models in tilapia farming may include:

  Commercial production of fingerlings

  Commercial production of fresh matured tilapia

  Processing of matured tilapia into fillets for export market

  Commercial production of pelleted feed

  Supply of materials for construction of cages and farm management

  Design of Farm Management Systems

The demand for fish, especially tilapia, in Ghana is fast increasing albeit a worrying trend of supply deficit. It is, therefore, very providential that the Ministry of Fisheries is encouraging the youth to go into aquaculture, if not as individuals. I will also encourage the formation of fish farming groups and cooperatives to pool resources in order to undertake this adventure. This is the way to go and not necessarily an individualistic adventure.

Everywhere in the world where quality of life is high, there is a great convergence between mechanised farming, health and wealth. Such convergence stems from a greater integration of farmers into national, regional and global agricultural food distribution systems, value chain and markets. Potential fish farmers must think about such markets moving from micro, small and medium-scale to large-scale aquaculture farming. We must think big because God who gave us the natural resources in this country is BIG!

Harry Dzomeku is the author of the book “TILAPIA FARMING MADE EASY” and an aquaculture researcher. He is the founder and CEO of LifeLine Group of Companies. Gravitas, a member of the group, is involved in business development services in microfinance, agro-projects and also in human capital development. 


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