Commercialising goat and sheep breeding will unlock export opportunities

Commercialising goat and sheep breeding will unlock export opportunities

Discussions on export potential of the agriculture sector often touches on traditional export products such as tobacco and peas as well as emerging crops such as blueberries and macadamia nuts.    

Whilst these are usually top earners, the capital requirements to do meaningful production is often high, and far from reach especially smallholder and rural farmers, who make up the majority of farmers in the country.

For those looking to participate in mainstream export business, there are opportunities to consider that have been part of local communities for generations and commercialise them.

This will not only provide export options for smallholder and rural farmers, but also integrate them into mainstream economic activities, along the lines of “leaving no one behind” direction that has been adopted by President Mnangagwa’s Second Republic.

Traditionally, there are products and animals that have adopted to the climatic conditions of Zimbabwe, making them easy to produce at a relatively cheaper cost.

Experts say goats and sheep withstand drought conditions much better than cattle and they can survive on shrubs and need less manpower for tending to, making them a better choice than high-maintenance bigger cattle like cows, which are less tolerant to drought conditions.

Whilst most households keep goats and sheep as domestic livestock for their own consumption, there is vast potential to increase goat livestock breeders for the purpose of export, given is rearing advantages and growing global demand.

Goats and sheep are such animals whose production and exportation has not been fully explored in the country, yet it has great potential evidenced by the world import demand of the product.

Goat and sheep rearing has been practiced in rural areas across Zimbabwe.

However, its slow pace in contributing significantly to national exports is largely due to the failure by farmers to commercialise the practice.

Further to this, the demand for goat and sheep meat is increasing faster than the growth in their population, making it difficult for local producers to meet required quantities.

To address the challenge, President Mnangagwa launched the nation-wide rural goat scheme this Friday as one of the measures to address the livestock gap in the country.

This scheme will see vulnerable groups, young people, and women in rural communities receive goats for free, but will be expected to pass-on to the next recipients when the breeds give birth.

The Presidential Rural Goat Scheme will see over three million households benefits from the US$87 million programme and is expected to push-up the population of goat livestock in the country.

This will help meet the rising demand of Zimbabwe-produced goat and sheep meat in international markets, whose ready market was confirmed to local farmers who attended the Dubai Inward Buyer’s Mission, organised recently by ZimTrade – the national trade development and promotion organisation.  

During the business-to-business engagements between local farmers and buyers from Dubai, goat and sheep meat was one of the biggest areas of interest was identified as having potential to catapult Zimbabwean meat producers into the Middle-East markets.

Already, some organisations have committed to work with private players to get Halal Certification, which is a requirement when exporting meat and other food products to the United Arab Emirates.

What is important now is to identify supply gaps that Zimbabwean farmers can tap into, as well as find sustainable solutions that will make it easy for smallholder and rural farmers to consolidate and grow their supply capacity.

Global opportunities

Goats and sheep are consumed across the world and are a multi-functional animal that plays an important dietary and, in some cases, religious functions that drives its demand.

Unlike other products like beef and pork, goats and sheep have no religious taboos, and holds a unique role in traditional events and religious gatherings.

This makes goats and sheep a unique product that can be exported in any country across the world.

Figures available on Trade Map show that the global import of goat and sheep meat has been growing over the past five years, from US$6.99 billion in 2017, to US$8.61 billion in 2021.

Currently, the largest importers of goat and sheep meat are China (US$2.38 billion), United States of America (US$1.44 billion), France (US$893 million), United Kingdom (US$368 million), Germany (US$323 million), United Arab Emirates (US$322 million).

Countries such as China and United Kingdom already enjoy good trade relations with Zimbabwe in products such as tobacco and horticultural produce and local farmers can use existing supply routes to introduce locally-produce goat and sheep meat into the markets.

Further to meat, there are also opportunities to supply live animals, whose global import value of live goats and sheep was US$1.4 biliion in 2021.

Of this value, major importers where Saudi Arabia (US$494 million), Jordan (US$167 million), Kuwait (US$89.5 million), and Italy (US$63 million).

When looking at the figures, there is no doubt on the potential market that Zimbabwean farmers can target.

The major issue however is what needs to be done to ensure that farmers can access the markets.

Need to increase production and consolidate

As the Presidential programme on goats takes off, there is need for communities to look beyond the animals as sources of meat for household consumption but a viable export product.

First Round Crop and Livestock Assessment Report 2020/2021 Season, the total livestock of goats in the country has grown from around 3.9 million in 2019/2020 season to almost four million in 2020/2021.

During the same period, the total population of sheep has grown from 5.48 thousand to around 700 thousand.

Although the population is growing, there is need to commercialise the sub-sector, which will help increase production as demand is much higher.

Commercialising the sector will also address challenges such as mortality and losses to predators and theft.

Farmers also need to adopt better animal husbandry practices, consider hybrids, and treat goat and sheep rearing as a business.

Over the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of farmers considering breeds such as boer, which are touted to have fast growth rate and are good for meat production.

There is also need for farmers to group and organise themselves so that they consolidate and meet required numbers.

Smallholder farmers are usually the top breeders of goats, there is need to consolidate farmers and introduce export favoured breeding techniques and standards.

As current production is low compared to demand, it may be difficult for a single farmer to sustain demand over longer periods of time.

It is encouraging that a few associations have been formed to try to bring together ideas from producers.



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