Management of Tropo Farms Limited says it is opened to dialogue to resolve outstanding compensation issues around its Mpakadan fish production site in the Eastern Region, compulsorily acquired by government for railway construction.
This follows failure by the Ghana Railway Development Authority (GRDA) and Ghana’s chief producer of tilapia for local consumption to agree on modalities for an adequate compensation package to enable the company to relocate.
Though the 97.9-kilometre Tema-Mpakadan railway which meanders through the main tilapia production joint of Tropo Farms Limited (TFL) has started, officials said, there had not been any compensation paid to the Company.
Mr Andries Zwaga, Chief Operations Officer of TFL, told journalists that the company was in full support of the 97.9-kilometre Tema-Mpakadan railway construction but the state must be willing to compensate the company to enable them to relocate with equipment and hundreds of workers.
“We are not in any way against the railway project, for us we think that we need fair compensation to enable us to relocate without disruption,” he said.
“The Mpakadan site is a significant link in a large and complex operation so it takes many months to relocate. Nothing has been done since early 2019 despite our best efforts and collaboration. And we must ensure that no one loses his or her job.”
The company has been waiting for relevant government bodies on modalities for compensation settlement to facilitate their movement, he said, but had not heard anything, despite the railway construction getting closer as the contractor, Afcons Infrastructure Limited, makes unauthorised entry into the production site with heavy equipment and armed security personnel.
“What happened last Friday was astonishing, they just came in with three excavators and a bulldozer, nobody came to tell us anything, nobody talked to us, they just came into our property with armed police and started working…we told them you can’t do that but they didn’t mind us,” he said.
“We had damages to our power supply…they destroyed trees that we had spent years to plant, they damaged our water supply lines and we have to spend long hours working to get our water and power supplies back.”
The blaring of heavy-duty equipment, blasting of dynamite and catholic damping of rocks and earth into the Volta Lake, according to officials, stress up the fish and affect their feeding as they could not eat well.
The situation forced the company to move about 300 cages deep into the Lake to allow production to continue but the main access route to the production site of the Lake has been blocked.
The fish production company incorporated in 1997 and branded as Volta Catch, employs about 800 local workers from nearby communities and other parts of the country as well as additional 2000 market women engaging in the tilapia retail business.
The workers who spoke with the Ghana News Agency expressed concern about the stalemate as a failure by the government to address the matter amicably and swiftly could lead to the company folding up or downsizing and that could cost their jobs and livelihoods.
Mr Divine Ayisi, Assistant Production Manager, said most workers panicked and got traumatised upon seeing armed policemen in the company’s premises without talking to anybody, and destroying the forest reserve, power and water supply lines.
“A lot of workers fear they will lose their jobs, everyone is traumatised, even my family is traumatised when I told them,” he said.
“Other workers and their families are also traumatised because this is where their livelihoods depend on. This is where they get their daily bread and if they are going to lose it, it becomes a worry. That is why most of the workers are quite worried about what is happening.”
Ms Esther Odonkor, a supervisor of the Post-harvest Department, said the majority of workers are females and when the company stopped production they and their dependents would be the most affected.
“Our education, our health and our standard of living will come down if the company stops production, it would worry us a lot because we are mostly the breadwinners of our families.”
Mr Bismark Asiedu, a 27-year-old senior high school graduate from Kumasi, in the Ashanti Region, also expressed fear of losing his job and his ambition for high education truncated as he secured the work with high hopes of making some savings for further studies.
“But now as things are going, I may lose this job, and it is difficult to secure a job, I have been having sleepless nights since the armed police stormed here last Friday, and bulldozers and excavators started destroying things,” he said.
The railway line cuts through the 227-acre land and blocks the access route to the Volta Lake where the fish, Tilapia, is harvested and transported back to the processing centre.
TFL produces about 200 tonnes of tilapia every week for the Ghanaian market but it is still not able to meet local demand.
Mr Francis Zimmaleh, Head of Finance, Tropo Farms, told the GNA that, “although the law makes provision for compulsory acquisitions, this is said to be subject to the payment of prompt, fair and adequate compensation.”
He said in the spirit of negotiation, GRDA had agreed to take steps to follow up on the company’s claim submitted at the Land Valuation Division and at the Lands Commission to give TFL some level of assurance from the government.
However, he said nothing had been done about that, adding, though the company was opened to dialogue, it also reserved the right to settle the disagreement at the appropriate forum such as the court if the stalemate persisted.