Mrs Amy Atter, a senior research scientist, has urged fish processors to adopt improved fish processing techniques like hygienic handling and sun drying on raised platforms to create wealth from small fish often labelled as ‘trash-fish’.
She said with value addition, trash fish’s utilisation could be expanded, explaining that it constituted an undervalued and important source of protein and micronutrients.
Mrs Atter said when combined with other food groups, especially carbohydrate-based foods, trash fish could help address malnutrition among children under five-years.
Mrs Atter who was speaking to the Ghana News Agency on the side-lines of a training on value addition organised for fish processors in Ningo-Ahwiam, said diversifying the use of trash fish when explored and scaled-up would attract additional income for fish processors.
The training is under the European Union funded project called LEAP-agri “SmallFishFood”, which seeks to explore and introduce innovative modes of integrating fish in the local food systems to improve nutrition.
It also aimed at preserving the nutritional value of small fish such as anchovies, Atlantic bumper, and African moonfish species through minimizing the environmental impacts and maintenance of the ecosystem structure and functioning.
The women were trained in the operation of the hammer mill, correct use of the drying racks, improved packaging, utilisation of fish powder for various food preparations such as shitor, doughnuts, fish waffles, and fish nuggets.
Mrs Atter who is a Principal Investigator on the project at the Food Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (FRI-CSIR), said a study conducted under the project revealed that the traditional processing of small fish did not follow best hygienic processes, had issues of food safety, quality and negative ripple effect of revenue losses to the fish processors.
She indicated that the study found that, “After washing the fish with sea water which is most often contaminated with faecal matter, it is spread on bare floors, pavements by the roadside, flat stones, footbridges, and open racks close to the ground for two to five days.
“The risk of rain, which decreases the drying rate, cause spoilage and sometimes washes away edible fish and contacts with flies, bird droppings, dust, microorganisms, rodents, and insects contaminate it, resulting in poor quality and losses”.
To illustrate the benefit of the technologies, she said the project had constructed off-the-ground drying platforms and drying racks for the women fish processors at project interventions areas such as Adina in the Volta Region, Moree in the Central Region, Tema-Newtown and Ningo-Ahwiam Greater Accra Region.
The women were taken through improving fish processing techniques, including basic good hygienic practices as well as vapourising small sun-dried fish to enhance products’ safety, quality, shelf life and utilisation.
The group was supported with tools, including potable sealing machines for packaging and hammer mills.
Mr Jonathan Ampah, a Research Scientist at FRI-CSIR, said the training was to empower the women and introduce them to the technologies.
He encouraged them to use fish powder to fortify porridges for children and for thickeners in stews and soups.
Madam Diana Gawu, the Vice President of the Ningo-Ahwiam Fish Processors Association, said the hygienic practices and value-addition technologies would address some of the major concerns such as post-harvest losses and increase their income.
“Many people like anchovies but because it is not processed under hygienic conditions people shun it. Now we know how to sun-dry on a rack to ensure it is sand free and also attract premium prices at the market”.
She explained that in the months of June through to August fishmongers were often compelled to sell their fish to aggregators at a low price due to limited processing options and also to avoid wastage.
“Often we sun-dried anchovies, the unpredictable nature of the rain makes it wet and becomes unwholesome. Three baskets of anchovies for instance are sold for GHS120, while the same quantity in it wholesome state will go for GHS300.”
“Through this training we have learned how to process excess fish into powder, pepper sauce, biscuit or doughnuts for sale or keep it and sell it later for a competitive price.”
Other members from FRI-CSIR, who were part of the training were Dr Margaret Owusu, Mrs. Anthonia Andoh-Odoom and Mr. Papa Toah Akonor.