Dumisani Nsingo,Senior Farming Reporter
RABBIT Breeders and Producers Association of Zimbabwe (RBPAZ) is in the process of engaging financial institutions to fund farmers interested in rearing the small stock in a bid to improve its population.
RBPAZ executive chairman Mr Jonathan Tembo said the rabbit industry in the country is experiencing considerable growth.
“Production is still a big challenge as most farmers lack resources and mostly so far it’s been urban farmers who have responded to rabbit farming. We are in discussions with a financial institution to assist farmers,” said Mr Tembo.
Rabbit Breeders and Producers Trust has been spearheading, albeit many challenges, the commercialisation of rabbit farming in Zimbabwe.
“In the past three years, they have been working to ensure consistent supply of quality breeding stock, mobilising and co-ordinating the small producers into production as well as the establishment of market structures for meat rabbits and other by-products in the near future,” said Mr Tembo.
He said the association failed to embark on an extensive outreach programme aimed at promoting the rearing and consumption of small stock last year due to lack of funds.
“We have been hindered mostly by lack of resources in 2017 but the plans we had (to embark on an outreach programme) will still be rolled out this year,” said Mr Tembo.
On the commercial and market side National Rabbit Industry (NRI) was established in 2016 with its Rabbit Meat Centre (RMC) for promoting rabbit meat consumption and establishing marketing and distribution channels.
RMC now distributes rabbit meat under the brand Rabbitos-Tsuro-Umvundla brand at leading supermarket outlets as well as retailing in Harare. It has plans to roll out to other distribution centres outside Harare.
“We are marketing our Rabbitos-Tsuro-Umvundla brand mostly in Harare due to capacity issues. We have plans for Bulawayo in the first quarter of 2018 and thereafter other provinces,” said Mr Tembo.
RMC has continued exploring rabbit meat market due to its high nutritional value (high protein, low fat, low cholesterol, high vitamin B12 and low energy) while it is also working on exploring the lucrative export market.
“It (RMC) is now working on the lucrative export markets where prices are double the local prices. Over four billion kilogrammes are consumed world-wide with some countries in Europe importing $20 to $33 million worth of rabbits yearly.
“For the export markets RBPT intends to establish an Exporters Club, a group of farmers who will be trained specifically on producing for the export market. The Exporters Club aims at ensuring quality and uniformity in farmers who are contracted to produce for export,” said Mr Tembo.
He said the association was looking forward to have rabbits being included under Government’s Command Livestock Programme.
“We have been part of the meetings and launch (of Command Livestock) and indications are that we will get something for the development of the rabbit industry in Zimbabwe. Rabbit farming is a business and has a great potential to create sustainable livelihoods for many families in the country.
This is supported by the movement towards the healthier choices of meat, high prolificacy and easy integration with other farming systems and many other advantages,” said Mr Tembo.-@DNsingo