Mrs Mavis Hawa Koomson, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, has intervened in the impasse over outstanding compensation matters concerning Tropo Farms Limited after Government acquired the farm’s core operational area for railway project.
During a visit to the farms last Friday with some technical staff of the Ministry, the Minister directed managers of the farm to submit a report on all unresolved compensation issues and other challenges facing the company for redress.
Mrs Koomson was at Tropo Farms Limited, producers of tilapia, at Mpakadan in the Asuogyaman District of Eastern Region, to have first-hand information about the farm’s operations and challenges.
She encouraged the management to continue with the good work and also assured them of government’s support to promote aquaculture for food and jobs.
Promoting aquaculture, she said was central to the government’s modernisation of agriculture agenda which Tropo Farms as a private entity was already a key player.
“What do we do to encourage you to continue with the good work you are doing is to visit you and to give you assurance that we are with you,” she said. And promised to collaborate with the Railways Minister to help address their compensation matter quickly.
She advised managers of the farm to immediately write to the Railway Ministry and copy her, stressing: “So that, quickly, I can take it up with my colleague and see how best we can help.”
She urged them to include in the letter all compensation issues, fast encroachment of Afcon on the farm’s core operational zone, and the number of employees as well as the number of people likely to be rendered jobless should the company shutdown.
In October 2021, managers of the farm called for dialogue with stakeholders in the railway and fisheries sectors in the resolution of unpaid compensation issues affecting the company, following a stalemate between it and the Ghana Railway Development Authority.
However, Friday’s intervention by the fisheries minister was hailed as a positive development as it would pave way for fruitful dialogue and speed up the compensation process for relocation of the tilapia company to sustain employment.
Briefing the minister, Mr Francis Zimmaleh, Senior Manager, Corporate Strategy and PRO of Tropo Farms, said the company contributed 40 per cent of Ghana’s tilapia market and was ranked second largest tilapia producer in Sub-Saharan African.
He said the Company was incorporated in 1997 and branded as, Volta Catch. “It employs 800 workers, mostly women, with additional 2,000 women engaged in the distribution chain.”
Through its value chain, the company has created and continue to create employment at its depots in Tema, Kasoa, Malata, Takoradi and Kumasi with plans afoot to establish an additional depot in Tamale to serve the northern sector of Ghana.
He stated that non-operationalisation of the Mpakadan site would have rippling effect on employment in those areas.
Mr Zimmaleh said the company was fully in support of the Government’s job creation agenda and as a result, was rolling out Volta Catch Women, a flagship project to empower women in the tilapia value chain.
Adding, “But, we are facing daunting challenges, and deeply concerned about job losses. We want to sustain the jobs we have created so far, we don’t want a situation whereby livelihoods would be lost”
He also said: “With the railway terminal on the site being adjacent to what was once a pristine nature zone, we will no longer be able to carry out aquaculture at the site.
“Already the construction works over the last two years has had an impact on the aquatic environment.
“The second phase of the project which involves the siting of a harbour in the concession is a double blow – the proximity of either project is against best aquaculture practices and food safety. We proudly produce safe and healthy food fish.”
He stressed, the encroachment was fast approaching its core operational area which would lead to the road leading to the processing centre of the lake being cut off.
And the situation would not permit trucks and vehicles to move into the production site.
He re-echoed that the company was not against the railway construction as it would even help in their expansion bid to northern Ghana and neighbouring Burkina Faso, adding, “It is of paramount national interest to us.”
Mr Zimmaleh said the company had always supported the government in its developmental efforts, including distribution of food during COVID lockdown.
During the period, he said, “We produced and supplied fish through NABCO personnel and aided them in the distribution to various isolated centres.
Already, he said portions of the Company’s southern land had been taken for the railway construction. They moved out about 360 cages of tilapia offshore at their own cost.
Mr Zimmaleh said Tropo Farm was requested to present a report for compensation to be processed for payment, and in response, that report was submitted in 2019 but nothing had been done about it.
“As we speak, we don’t know the status of it. We have made several and series of follow-ups without anything positive coming out,” Mr Zimmaleh said.
However, he said they were taken aback, when on 5th October 2021, Afcon Construction with excavators and bulldozers in the company of armed police invaded the farm without provocation, causing destruction to property including damage to electricity and water supply lines.
Mr Zimmaleh, therefore, appealed to the Minister to intervene to help the company relocate without disruptions.
Commenting on the compensation for Tropo Farms, Mr David Aidoo, Coordinator of Aquaculture, Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture, told the meeting that the Lands Commission had been asked to write officially to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. “So I will say that on the compensation, it is now receiving attention.”
Ghana produces 440 000 metric tonnes of fish annually, while the national fish requirement is pegged at one million metric tonnes as of 2017 with its per capita fish consumption estimated at 26kg.
Meanwhile, Ghana’s aquaculture fish production is pegged at 52,350 tonnes as of 2020 with Tropo Farms Limited accounting for 40 per cent of that figure.