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Rabbit meat, Tilapia on the menu

By SANDRA SINGH Monday, February 25 2008

click on pic to zoom in
 Rabbit meat, could soon be on the menu for many....
Rabbit meat, could soon be on the menu for many....

IN THE wake of rapid price hikes for chicken, the staple diet, as well as fish, the cuddly pet rabbit is positioned to become a major source of cheap and readily available meat to replace the expensive poultry. And as a replacement for the also expensive fish, Agriculture Minister Arnold Piggott, thinks the rearing of the river fish — Tilapia — is the answer.

Piggott, after cursory visits with his Cabinet colleague, Tourism Minister Joseph Ross, to several El Socorro sites last Friday, both believe rabbit and tilapia could be the panacea for keeping meat and fish on the dinner table. The sites visited have been earmarked for an aggressive Tilapia breeding scheme.

Piggott said introduction of new poultry farming techniques along with the creation of mainstream rabbit and tilapia industries were some of the newer measures being undertaken to stem rising food prices.

Within the past year, Trinidad and Tobago has been hit with no less than three price hikes in chicken blamed on international factors including the increase in the price of feed. In addition, basic food items including milk, eggs, cheese, bread, legumes and fruits and vegetables have all increased rapidly, making a basic meal consisting of carbohydrates and protein difficult to come by for many on the lower income bracket.

Piggott revealed that discussions have already taken place to have the rabbit industry expanded. “We are seeking to do a major rabbit production facility in the Santa Cruz valley to the extent that we can get that up and running and highly productive,” Piggott said. He said rabbit was in extremely high demand from supermarkets, hotels and restaurants.

And while rabbit meat is being sold on average for $25 per pound, the idea is that once rabbit farming becomes a recognised industry, the price per pound would go down since it would no longer be considered a delicacy as is presently the case.

Turning to the issue of Tilapia fish farming, Piggott revealed that the tilapia fish farms were privately run and would get Government assistance. Tilapia fish farmer Arnold Maraj said they hoped to get more land access by expanding on Government owned lands located lower down the banks of the Caroni River.

“We need acquisition of the land and assistance from Government in putting ponds together. The aim is not only to develop the industry but create employment,” Maraj said.

Jameel Mustapha whose father was involved in the Tilapia industry said the fish reproduces rapidly and was high in protein. He said while other types of fish were selling at exorbitant prices, consumers could buy Talipia for as little as two dollars a pound. In contrast, the popular king fish sells for upwards of $30 per pound.

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