The country’s farmers are being encouraged to get into the small ruminant sector based on the vast potential for the marketing of goat and sheep meat locally and internationally.
Agricultural Economist, Dr. Charles Douglas, while addressing a recent workshop on the economic viability of the small ruminant sub-sector in Jamaica, said that based on a recent study he conducted, he had found that very good opportunity existed to increase sheep and goat production locally. The Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP) funded the research.
“My calculations from the study indicate that currently, Jamaica imports in excess of 80 per cent of what it requires in terms of goat meat and lamb, an industry valued at about one billion dollars. If more of our farmers can get into the act and tap into this market, then they can become very successful agri-business owners, who can venture to meet both local as well as international demand,” he stated.
Dr. Douglas suggested that farmers could employ a number of strategies, such as the crossbreeding of goats, to provide a superior genetic pool. “This improved stock of breeding animals is available to farmers who have the option to raise them for breeding purposes as against solely rearing for slaughtering and cash flow necessities,” he pointed out.
Endorsing Dr. Douglas’ statement, Agriculture Minister, Roger Clarke, said that data collected by the Ministry and the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) show that there has been a persistent shortfall in the supply of local goat meat and lamb and it is against this background that “we ask farmers to get on board as we also have to find a way of reducing the import bill for goat meat and lamb.”
He said the Ministry had, over the years, implemented projects to enhance the local goat and sheep stock as well as provided training in improved husbandry for goat and sheep breeders. The initiatives include the establishment of a breeding station at Hounslow in 1983 and a national sheep and goat project in 1987. A goat commercialisation project was started in 2001 to increase goat meat production and to assist farmers to increase their sales. Under this project, four pregnant does are made available to each participant at 40 per cent of the commercial value, which is $10,000 per doe.
Minister Clarke noted that the projects have resulted in a “marked transformation” of the small ruminant sub-sector. “What we have seen is an improvement in the dressed weight of our native goats through cross-breeding with Nubian and Boers, a significant reduction in the mortality rates of goat kids and overall, a 40 per cent increase in growth rate,” he stated.