EDITORIAL: Farmers need livestock feed subsides to stay afloat

Rwanda has an ambitious target to increase meat production nearly twofold by 2018, a move geared at meeting local demand and helping to reduce livestock product imports. The country produced 116,000 tonnes of meat last year and seeks to increase production to 230,000 tonnes of meat by 2018, including beef, chicken, pork, goat meat, and mutton. This target now hangs in balance as some livestock farmers have resorted to making their own feeds due to high cost of animal and poultry feeds.

This does not auger well with the sector as it affects productivity. That’s why relevant government agencies and private sector stakeholders should intervene urgently and find remedy to the problem.

The government, in partnership with the private sector, should provide animal feed subsidies to address the problem, in the interim period as long-term solutions are sought. It is essential that farmers get access to affordable feeds to improve production and enable the country achieve its 2018 meat output targets.

This is more so given the fact that some of the raw materials used to make animal feeds, like miller’s bran, particularly maize bran, are now scarce on the market. This also ensures that livestock farmers earn a profit from their effort.

However, it’s important that farmers embrace modern farming ideals where they are able to produce their own feeds. A modern farmer needs to be well equipped to stay in business and ensure sustainable production, whatever the circumstances. The prevailing situation challenges farmers to acquire skills required to make their own feeds to secure their enterprises. With about 1.3 million cows, five million chicken and one million pigs in the country, this is the best approach to address this issue in a sustainable manner. Input dealers and animal feed factories must also invest more in the distribution network so that all farmers can readily get animals wherever they need them.