The tuna sector, one of the major contributors to Non-Traditional Exports, has seen its contribution to Ghana’s economy gradually declining in recent years. According to the Ghana Tuna Association (GTA), the sector, on average, used to contribute about US$300 million each year to the country’s economy.
Data from the Ghana Statistical Service, made available by the GTA, however showed that the fisheries sector, of which tuna is a major component, contributed approximately USD263.2 million to Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2021.
“In Ghana, tuna contributes significantly to the non-traditional export and contributed some USD300 million annually to the economy; this has however, declined significantly,” Mr. Richster Nii Amarh Amarfio, GTA Secretary said at a conference.
Mr Amarfio, who outlined a number of challenges facing the sector in Ghana, said the sector has set-out modalities to take advantage of opportunities being offered through the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) platform to expand its production and market for Tuna consumption in Africa.
He said there is the need for players in the tuna industry to take advantage of the AfCFTA to increase demand for its consumption, stressing that in order to get the canneries to deal with the challenges, there is the need to open up an African Market for Tuna.
Mr Amarfio added that the government must initiate policies that would help reduce the cost of production, both at the canneries and also the fishing vessels, to make tuna products from the canneries available on the African market at relatively low cost.
Though the European Union (EU) remains a major market for the canneries, the GTA Secretary noted that the European market however, has key trade challenges targeted at the fishing companies which ultimately affect the canneries through the traceability principles.
This means the two major canneries in Ghana: Pioneer Food Cannery and Cosmo Foods need to meet rigorous requirements from the European market, the major market for tuna. Mr Amarfio lamented that these requirements also impact significantly on trade because “the regular threat of trade sanctions from the EU affects the cannery and its operations”.
Non-compliance with the EU’s illegal fishing policy
Ghana has a long history of non-compliance with the EU’s illegal fishing policy. The EU, last year, warned that Ghana risks sanctions “as a non-cooperating country in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing”. The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) estimated that Ghana loses more than US$200million to illegal fishing annually with the canker still endemic. This compels Ghana to spend some US$200million annually on importing fish to shore-up fish requirements.
The GTA Secretary said the tuna sector is one of the most important sectors within the fishing industry globally. Ghana’s fisheries contribute 4.5 percent to annual GDP and indirectly support the livelihoods of 2.2 million people or 10% of all people in Ghana, according to the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
The National Export Development Strategy (NEDS) projects export revenues from fishery products to reach $1.12 billion by 2029. However, the NEDS cited Ghana’s over-reliance on the European Union (EU) as the main market for fish exports from Ghana as a grave weakness bedeviling the fishery sector.
Achieving this target therefore, called for an aggressive value addition programme in the next seven years, protection of the fish stock, and adoption of proper methods of fishing as well as curbing illegal fishing activities since marine fisheries account for over 80% of the locally landed fish consumed in Ghana.