A company considers rabbit breeding contracts

the herald

business journalist

LOCAL’s private company, Raymeg Holdings, intends to launch contract farming programs with rabbit farmers across the country to boost the local supply of rabbit meat, which could help empower around 1.8 million households in line with the National Livestock Growth Plan targets.

It comes as Raymeg, a member company of the Zimbabwe Commercial Rabbit Breeders Association (Zicorba), continues to explore ways to support the recovery and growth of commercial rabbit meat production, following the collapse industry a few years ago.

Thanks to the company’s efforts across Zimbabwe, the production and consumption of rabbit meat has increased rapidly over the past few years, with many large hotels and supermarket chains offering and selling protein-rich rabbit meat respectively .

Zicorba chairman Regis Nyamakanga, who is also a founding director of Raymeg, said so this weekend during celebrations for the association’s second anniversary of formation.

The rabbit industry lobby group was launched in July 2020 to revive an industry that had collapsed due to the economic challenges of the past decade.

The Managing Director of the Livestock and Meat Advisory Council (LMAC), Dr. Reneth Mano, was the guest of honor at the event. Several industry speakers, including Zicorba members and leaders from various chapters of the association across the country as well as retailer representatives also graced the event.

“In line with the government’s livestock growth plan, which places particular emphasis on small ruminants, our program is to empower the majority of the 1.8 million households in Zimbabwe to enter the cash economy. , thanks to the production of rabbits.

“Over the past two years, our breeders (mainly young people and women) have organized themselves into small, medium and large-scale rabbit breeders. We have a number of companies that have also invested heavily in large-scale rabbit production.

“A number of schools, colleges and universities are getting into rabbit farming because the start-up costs are relatively low compared to other forms of farming. As the market for rabbit meat in Zimbabwe grows, we are considering the idea of ​​starting contract farming programs in partnership with Raymeg.

“We also see rabbit production playing a catalytic role in the growth and development of our economy through job creation, generation of much needed foreign exchange and general improvement in livelihoods.

“The growth of our industry will create many opportunities for downstream industries such as cage makers, repairers, rabbit nest makers, feeders and rabbit suppliers, to name a few. We are happy that the country now has its own rabbit slaughterhouse ($1 million).

“The slaughterhouse has entered into commercial agreements with the main supermarket chains in Zimbabwe for them to sell rabbit meat in the country and create the much needed market for our members. We have heard from Mr. Ncube of Medisha Private Limited in Matebeleland that a second rabbit slaughterhouse is planned for Bulawayo.

“It will be launched before the end of this year to expand and expand rabbit meat distribution in the country.

Over the next five years, rabbit meat could easily generate more than US$3 million from domestic sales alone, largely due to access to affordable breeding stock, which Raymeg provides in the local market and the availability of funding.

“We have a number of banks knocking on our doors wanting to finance our farmers; we have kept them at bay largely because of the prohibitive interest rates currently prevailing, these are the things we are looking at over the next few years, Nyamakanga revealed.

He said huge rabbit meat export opportunities exist in African countries and in China, which has a demand of more than 400,000 tonnes per year. “Already this week, we have received numerous requests from Botswana, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, for us to supply them with rabbit meat.”

Mr Nyamakanga said the massive interest in rabbit production in Zimbabwe over the past two years and the subsequent launch of the first-ever rabbit slaughterhouse, located in the Harare waterfalls region, had put the country in a good position. to become one of the best rabbit producers in Africa. .

“In a short time, Zicorba has forged strategic alliances with rabbit breeders associations in Kenya, Zambia, South Africa, Uganda, Mozambique, Eswatini, Nigeria and Botswana.

“We aim to be among the top three rabbit producing countries within the next five years; we could actually be the first producer,” he said.

It comes as South Africa, one of the region’s biggest producers, faces challenges and recently approached Zicorba with an offer to sell three rabbit slaughterhouses there, which are struggling to sustain themselves. afloat, which has also seen farmers seek a market there for their meat in Zimbabwe.

“At the end of last year, South Africans exported around 12 tonnes of rabbit meat to Zimbabwe through Raymeg Holdings, which was sold at various outlets across the country. So South Africans are looking for opportunities in Zimbabwe,” he said.

However, Zicorba’s massive gains over the past two years in reviving the country’s rabbit industry are under threat from the massive rise in commodity prices, which Nyamakanga said has soared by more than 100%.

This was the result of political interventions aimed at curbing inflation and the free fall of the local currency.

“We want any future government policies to be the result of thorough consultation with all stakeholders to ensure that the desired effect of these policies is achieved.”

Dr Mano said the rabbit industry was one of the youngest value chains in the country and he was encouraged by Raymeg’s investment in building the country’s first ever rabbit slaughterhouse in Waterfalls. , which is one of the largest in Africa.

He said that as an agricultural economist, his first research as an undergraduate student at the University of Zimbabwe in the 1980s was to study Zimbabweans’ willingness to pay for meat consumption. rabbit based on a case study in Chitungwiza.

“We were already talking about the potential (commercial) production of rabbit meat and how to turn that potential into a livelihood strategy, a food security strategy, a nutrition strategy to address some of the compelling challenges faced by Zimbabwean consumers face, especially in urban areas, where protein consumption declines as incomes decline.

He said many families are increasingly failing to get protein sources such as beef, fish and chicken off the table.

“What is our vision of a Zimbabwe we love, what kind of food for a Zimbabwean family that we believe will exist when we reach upper middle income status by 2025? Let’s hope it’s not 2030.

“When we have this transition, what kind of food will be eaten? I always wonder how many of us are still able to eat chicken on Monday, beef on Tuesday, dairy on Wednesday, goat meat on Thursday, mutton on Friday, rabbit meat on Saturday and fish on Sunday, then you start over.

Dr. Mano, who comes from LMAC, an umbrella body that represents 13 value chains of all major animal meats; the beef, dairy and feed industry, said LMAC’s role was to advise government on the direction stakeholders want the livestock industry to go.

He said that Zicorba had been working hard to find innovative ways to revamp and reinvigorate the rabbit production sector through a different approach, which involved offering solutions to overcome challenges in the industry.

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