Rabbit production in Uganda : potential versus opportunity
In only the past ten years, meat rabbit production in Uganda has been actively prometed by enthusiasts, via the "Rabbit Craze", as a get rich quick business opportunity with unlimited potential markets, both domestic and abroad. In Kampala, the capital of Uganda, the infantile rabbit industry can generally be described as a semiintensive, commercial production system based on high costs of investment (breeding stock, shelter, and wire hutches) and operation (pelleted feed and labor), and non-realized profitability. Further, purebred seedstock producers sell animals at exorbitant prices (25,000-70,000 USH (Uganda shillings) [exchange rate: 1,225 USH = 1 USO]), and feed companies sell pelleted feed at high prices (300-400 USH/kg or 0.24-0.33 USD/kg). This business exploitation invariably forces commercial rabbit producers to sell fryers at light market weights (~2 kg liveweight) and at high market prices in an attempt to recover business costs. In turn, sellers typically double market prices, which further ínflate consumer costs at 4,000-5,000 USH/kg. Current market costs for beef and chicken are lower at about 1,700 and 2,200 USH/kg. High consumer costs llmit market demand. Notwithstanding this, rabbit meat is not traditionally consumed by Ugandans. In Kampala, only two meat markets, two restaurants, and one university sell rabbit meat (estimated volume of only 100-200 fryers/month). Customers are mostly expatriates. As expected, many commercial producers have lost money, abandonment rate has been moderate to high, and the present reputation of rabbit production is waning. Paradoxically, real opportunities exist in Uganda to foster development by assisting needy families through a grassroots level, village-based rabbit program. Rabbits can benefrt many families, nutritionally and economically, in less time than many other livestock projects and at lower investment costs, but only if a sound project plan is implemented. A proposed development project consists of a subsistence production system, whereby utilization of renewable farm resources (e.g., 5-doe unit, local feeds and building materials, and family labor) and home consumption of inexpensive rabbit meat are primarily emphasized. Concurrently, an economic incentive must co-exist to encourage rabbit productlon. Appropriate and timely rabbit training, nutrition education, and market development activities will be critical. The initial management of limited pilot projects should foster the gradual development of rabbit meat consumption in villages as a short-term goal and expansion of formal markets for rabbit meat as a long-term goal. An opportunity and a challenge exist to develop a technically sound and sustainable rabblt program in Uganda.
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