Agriculture ministry encourages small ruminant production
Tuesday, October 9, 2018
by GIS

The Ministry of Agriculture is working to improve the production of small ruminants on the island.

Veterinarian and Animal Husbandry Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Daryl Best, said increased production will provide consumers with healthier local options, while boosting the income of farmers.

“We want small ruminants to be available on the market, as are local eggs, poultry, and swine," Dr. Best said. "People want to know that they’re buying local products. We want to be at a point where we are producing enough local goat meat to have a good percentage of the market share, and we’re not there as yet.

"We need to have more farmers producing and selling. That’s why we, through the IBSA fund are introducing new techniques and technologies and animals, so that we can give the farmers the tools to perform.”

Of the small ruminants currently in small-scale production, Dr. Best said the ministry hopes to increase the production of sheep and goats.

“We are actually sufficient on table eggs – the only time it runs out is during Christmas because there is high consumption," he said. "We’re doing well with poultry meat and swine. So our next flagship commodity is sheep and goats, and we are trying to get a foot in the door as they say.”

He explained that the untapped market can be easily harnessed by newer farmers with minimal inputs.

“I met a farmer about a year ago and he had three animals. By the end of the year he had about 12 animals and was already selling meat, so there are new young farmers coming on stream who want small ruminant production to grow in Saint Lucia. There are also backyard farmers. Once you have at least three females, you’re considered a farmer. So there are a number of people with small backyard farms where they can maintain a small herd of probably 10 animals. It’s a simple, low input venture with a high output. So there is an avenue for younger people to come into the agricultural sector.”

An increase in the production of local foods, including meats, will aid the reduction of Saint Lucia’s food import bill and improve food security.