No market for rabbit meat in the east
Albion Heights, St Thomas:
"Lots of rabbit, whole heap a people have whole heap a rabbits, and no have no way fi sell it," frustrated rabbit farmer, Dorette Abrahams of Albion heights, St Thomas, told Rural Xpress recently. In her vicinity, there are about eight other people, she said, who are also waiting to find a market.
"And there are whole heap a other people out there," she continued, pointing to the district below. Atop the hill, where she also has a shortage-of-water challenge, the breeze from the sea is very cool, placating her jitters over the status of her latest business venture.
She had gone into rearing rabbits after visiting a Denbigh Show, in 2013. Patrons were encouraged to get into rabbit rearing because it was said European tourists have a palate for tender rabbit meat, which the hotels have a demand for. So Abrahams decided that she, too, would titillate the taste buds of tourists, who have an appetite for rabbit meat.
"Yuh start up, and then suddenly yuh find yuh have it and there is no market," Abrahams lamented, "There is none!" With no help from RADA, she said she has been researching the hotels in the west, only to find out that they already have their suppliers from the west, and some are actually importing rabbit meat. Her geographical location then is not auguring well for her and other rabbit breeders in the east.
So, why not the local market in St Thomas and neighbouring parishes? That, too, is a challenge for many reasons. First, rabbit meat is not very popular on the table. People regard rabbits as pets, and, as such, they don't eat pets," Abrahams explained. "And some tell yuh say it look like rat," she said, "And so, dem can't eat it."
Another factor is the price of this lean and nutritious meat. It can range up to a $1,000 per pound, which is not affordable for many families. "The average person can't buy rabbit meat, the hotels themselves do not want to pay that," Abrahams said. But $750 per pound is not a bad price, she admitted.
It is not a bad price, because rabbit-rearing commands much attention from the farmer, and these somewhat delicate creatures have to be treated as such. Their shelter and the things they ingest have to be closely monitored. Their waste has to be removed from the hutches, and mating sessions coordinated.
Now, Abrahams has more than 50 heads of rabbits, including pregnant mothers, and would like to get some of them off her hands. She is maintaining that someone in authority should be assisting rabbit farmers in getting a market.
"I believe the role of the farmer is to farm, whether it's livestock or plants. In terms of the marketing, I believe it is vitally important that the Ministry of Agriculture needs to have a marketing arm," Abrahams said.
This marketing arm, which would keep a database of farmers and their produce, would also be a liaison between farmers and buyers. "If that were happening things would be much better, you wouldn't have this glut, and shortage," the enterprising retiree said.
Abrahams is now restricting mating because she has no ready market for these fast-breeding leporidae, and is willing to sell the live ones, head by head.