THE RABBIT meat industry said it is seeing increased demand because of the scarcity and expense of pork products due to the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.

Artemio C. Veneracion, Jr., Association of Rabbit Meat Producers, Inc. president, said in a mobile phone interview with BusinessWorld that acceptance for the alternative meat is growing, adding that Chinese restaurants are the main market.  

“If you are going to compare the acceptance of people years ago from the present, there are already a lot of people eating rabbit. Even in social media, people are selling rabbit meat. Back then, you would get bashed in social media if you post about rabbit meat,” Mr. Veneracion said.

Mr. Veneracion said another potential market is tourism destinations such as Baguio and Boracay.

“I think the industry is ready to supply rabbit meat. Maybe not in big quantities, but I think we can start small and increase the supply as we move forward,” Mr. Veneracion said.

With the economic impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Mr. Veneracion said people are seeking sources of alternative income.

“Production is quick since it only takes three months to raise a rabbit. It has a huge potential especially with the ASF outbreak in the hog industry,” Mr. Veneracion said.

He said the association currently has 355, with 70 new members added so far this year.

“Some of them (have) no experience, while others came from other industries such as poultry and hog. We have members that currently have a rabbit population of 4,000,” Mr. Veneracion said.

He said Central Luzon accounts for the highest number of rabbit raisers, with Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon), Nueva Vizcaya, Pampanga, Cebu, and Zamboanga also well-represented.

According to Mr. Veneracion, the initial investment needed to start production is about P46,000 for 14 female rabbits, known as does, and 2 male rabbits, or bucks.

At such an investment, production is estimated at 30 rabbits per month and profits can range from P8,000 to P14,000 per month, depending on marketing expenses and packaging costs.  

“The current farmgate price of rabbit is P450 per kilogram (/kg), with the production cost at around P310 to P320/kg.,” Mr. Veneracion said.

Mr. Veneracion said he is hoping that the government holds off on importing rabbit meat after the Department of Agriculture (DA) issued a memorandum circular on Aug. 25 laying out guidelines for rabbit imports.

“We are not against importation, per se. We need that eventually. But we are hoping that they hold off on imports first,” Mr. Veneracion said.

“The growing awareness and local acceptance of rabbit meat as an alternative source of protein amid the rising prices of major livestock commodities such as pork and poultry meat have ignited a subsequent increase in sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance requests for meat-type rabbit breeds,” according to the circular.  — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave