A Joy News’ Hotline Documentary, ‘Premix-Cartel’, has uncovered the underhand dealings of a cartel hoarding and trading premix at exorbitant prices.
The development accounts for artificial shortages in some communities, leading to hundreds of fishermen struggling to get the product to buy.
Others have abandoned the fishing business entirely resorting to basket weaving.
This is notwithstanding the fact that millions of litres of the fuel are supplied to fishermen annually, according to the Fisheries and Aquaculture Development Ministry.
For instance, in 2018, 72 million liters of premix was lifted from the Tema Oil Refinery to various landing beaches.
The product either does not get to the ordinary fisherman or gets to him at twice the approved price because of the illegal activities of middlemen.
These middlemen are aggressively buying, hoarding and selling premix fuel, against the law.
Their activities are hampering the regulation of the Premix Fuel Committee, which requires that a fisherman gets a maximum of one barrel of the fuel per month.
That quantity is for fishermen with large boats and canoes. And the fuel is to be sold directly to the fishermen and not middlemen.
Evidence shows this is not being done.
In the Central Region, getting a gallon of the fuel to buy can be a real struggle.
Given that the product is subsidised by the government, individuals have formed cartels that hoard the product and later sell it to fishermen at exorbitant prices. No one is checking these cartels. There are more boats in need of premix fuel.
At the Kwasi Gyan bay in Elmina, many boats have lined up. Kofi Agawu was seen by Joy News investigators, busily selling several barrels of premix gotten illegally.
He was not selling at the official price. Agawu has not been appointed by the premix committee and is not supposed to have access to this quantity of fuel. But he does. He sells a gallon at GH?15 instead of GH?7.30, more than twice the original cost.
Hundred meters away from where Agawu operates is another ‘premix hoarding lord’ who goes by the name Mensah O.B.
He is a middle-aged man and has been doing this trade for more than five years.
One can count at least 10 barrels of premix fuel he had hoarded. Like Kofi Agawu, Mensah O.B also sells the fuel at twice the original price.
In Axim in the Nzema East district of the Western region, the story is worse.
This is where the 2015 National Best Fisherman Ebenezer Afful, does his fishing.
Mr. Afful has grounded a number of his boats because he doesn’t get an adequate supply of premix fuel to power the outboard motors.
He alleges that communities with few numbers of boats are being allocated a lot of premix fuel. He cites Berewa Akyemu and other communities to buttress his point. Their fishermen use paddles but they have been allocated premix supply.
The situation is worse in the Volta region.
Here, fisher folks living in some communities are allocated premix fuel in the books but they struggle to acquire the product in reality.
William Akorli is also a fisherman in Agave Tornu area. He has taken to basket weaving following the challenge.
The situation is no different from Mafi Dugame. Fishermen here either rely on the black market or dock their boats. Boat operators like Gilbert Nonya are resorting to using adulterated fuel to power their engines.
According to the national premix fuel committee regulations, it’s an offence to sell premix fuel above the government approved fees. It’s also a breach of the regulations to hoard premix fuel. Anyone caught in these acts is liable to summary conviction or pay a fine.
But the regulation is being breached with impunity.
The national picture of the situation might help
The government supplies each landing beach with 3,000 gallons of premix fuel. If the approved price is GH?7.30 pesewas, then the state is losing an estimated GH?23,000 on each premix truck to these individuals hoarding the fuel.
The fisherfolks would have been buying the product at almost the price at which super is sold at the pump, had the government not subsidised it.
Government has over the years attempted various actions to deal with the crisis. For example, a premix task force was deployed to try to stop the hoarding and diversion of the fuel.
The National Premix Committee Chairman, Nii Lante Bannerman, says he does not know the people who are hoarding the commodity. And arresting the problem is an issue that is beyond them.
According to him, national security has been asked to intervene. But they are yet to make a breakthrough.
This is a troubling situation for a fishing industry with three million people depending on it directly for their livelihood.
In 2017, the sector accounted for 1.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product.
In monetary terms, the estimated contribution of the fisheries sector in 2017 was GH?2.2 billion.