Business News of Wednesday, 30 December 2015
Fishermen in communities around some landing beaches in the country want government to deregulate sale of premix fuel.
Users of the fuel in the Greater Accra, Central and western Regions say they have had to contend with frequent shortage of the commodity at the expense of their business.
They cite a situation in November where they received no supplies for over one month, grounding to a halt other economic activities which rely on fishing to thrive.
Though government is supposed to supply premix fuel to fishing communities at a subsidized price to facilitate the work of the fisher folk, supply has not been regular.
A visit to Dixcove in the Ahanta West District of the Western Region, for instance, revealed frustrated fishermen want the product to be sold on the open market.
The premix is not coming, and it is really affecting us. Without premix, how do we work, do you want us to steal? A fisherwoman, Joana Koomson quizzed.
A very vociferous woman in her thirties, she sounded so worried and bitter about the situation because it is the only work she does to take care of her family.
Apparently, that is the only source of livelihood for many people along the coast; hHhHv usbands, wives and even children, are all involved in fishing one way or the other.
“A week ago, we heard the premix people were going round but we haven’t heard anything again”. Madam Koomson lamented.
But the Assembly member for Lower-Dixcove, Emmanuel Bentum has a dissenting view to calls to sell premix fuel openly on the market. Instead, he wants the commodity distributed to fishermen.
“They should continue bringing it (premix fuel) to the fishermen because when they get the premix as they want it, I don’t think they will ask for it to be sold on the open market”. Mr Bentum insisted.
Premix fuel is often distributed, through the chief fisherman, by the National Premix Fuel Committee Secretariat in the various fishing communities.
The chief fisherman presides over the committee set up by government.
According to officials, a portion of proceeds from the sale of premix fuel is given to fishing communities as a contribution to community development.
Mr. Bentum, believes fishing communities will lose such funds, factored into the premix pricing, if it is sold in the open market.
“I don’t think it is a laudable idea to open up for people to sell premix. Imagine if this is allowed, how these communities can get this money for the little development,” he questioned.
Some fishermen have often asked if indeed such money really goes to fishing communities for the intended development.
Such concerns and speculation about underhand dealings led to the dissolution of the previous National Premix fuel Committee in March, 2015.
Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Sherry Ayittey, had explained “there was a proliferation of premix fuel sale points owned by individuals rather than fishers”, resulting in rampant diversion of the product.
The original idea for setting up a premix fuel committee, according to her, had been diluted.
Mrs. Ayittey acknowledged frequent shortage of premix fuel disadvantaged fishers, resulting in dissatisfaction, particularly, at the mode of sale of the product.
Six months after the dissolution of the committee, amid controversy, the Ministry inaugurated a new 10-man National Premix Fuel Committee to oversee allocation, distribution and sale of the commodity.
The Minister revealed that new guidelines developed to regulate activities of the committee would help check corruption and other issues that bedeviled the previous committee.
Months after reconstitution of the committee, fishers remain unhappy because of what some see as a repeat of events.
For Madam Joana Koomson and the entire fisher folk, there’s no solution in sight, at least for now.