Govt ready to meet Saudi goats challenge

GOVERNMENT will broker partnerships with financial institutions to provide funding to the livestock sector for facilities such as animal laboratories and screening centres for goats and sheep, Livestock and Fisheries minister Michael Katambo has said. Mr. Katambo told the Daily Nation yesterday that following the stakeholders’ meeting aimed at enlightening the farmers on the business opportunities for goats and sheep in Saudi Arabia, it became evident that there was need for the country to come up with facilities that would help farmers produce goats and sheep of desirable quality and standard. He said Government was happy that Saudi Arabia provided a one-window business opportunity for Zambian farmers and that his ministry will ensure that it took advantage of the business opportunity by providing facilities that will help the farmers to produce more goats and sheep and help them grow the business. He said the ministry will also enhance the recruitment of livestock extension officers to reduce the current farmer-officer ratio so that proper information was disseminated on how small-scale livestock farmers could produce at desirable levels. He said the demand of one million goats per year in Saudi Arabia presented a good business opportunity but came with a challenge as the current situation showed a deficit, adding that there was need for the country to step up its production of goats from the current 3.5 million in order to meet the demand. There was need for concerted efforts by Government and all stakeholders to revamp the small livestock sub-sector in order to meet the business arising from the Arab nation as well as other countries. He said disease control and proper feeding remained paramount to the production of quality goats and sheep that would meet international standards, adding that Government was considering constructing laboratories at district level so that the animals could be tested before they were moved to quarantine centres while bulk centres and disease free zones would also be established. “This is a huge business opportunity which we should actualise though it comes with a challenge because currently we are not meeting the demand for goats in Saudi Arabia and other countries but we want to actualise our farmers’ potential by brokering partnerships with financial institutions. ‘‘We want to build labs in districts, create disease-free centres, bulk, and quarantine centres so that other than controlling diseases, we can also enhance proper feeding for our goats. “We want to promote the local breed of goats but we want to have the best of quality from them so that as we export them to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region, they have the high quality needed. ‘‘We will also conduct more market research from production to the point of sale so that our farmers are not exploited by briefcase businessmen whom we want to remove from the process so that the producer enjoys maximum benefits,” Mr Katambo said. He observed that lack of information had hampered the development of the livestock sector especially among small-scale farmers in most rural parts of the country but said Government will ensure that the farmers get the best technical assistance from extension officers and provide them with relevant information needed. Government was determined to ensure that the sector was revamped. “Initiatives such as these have worked in other countries and there is no way we should fail to achieve our goals as a country especially that we already have the market. ‘‘We want to make sure that this does not just remain a hearsay but turns out into a reality where livestock farming becomes a huge business venture in Zambia,” he said.