Zimbabwe is experiencing an acute shortage of rabbit pellets, which commercial rabbit producers say has potential to choke the rapid growth of the country's cuniculture industry.
The Government has since set up a task force to probe the situation, Zimbabwe Commercial Rabbit Breeders Association (ZICORBA) president, Regis Nyamakanga has said.
Mr Nyamakanga said in an interview that "Over the past few months, we have received numerous reports of widespread shortages of rabbit pellets, which, if left unchecked could asphyxiate cuniculture production at a time when the industry is experiencing an upward trajectory.
"Some of the leading stock feed manufacturers have advised us that they are facing a serious shortage of maize bran, which is an essential ingredient in the production of rabbit pellets," he said.
Zimbabwe's leading stock feed producers are Capital Foods, National Foods, Agrifoods and Pro Feeds.
He added that this comes after the Government banned the importation of maize bran following last season's bumper harvest, but indicated players in the industry had not been able to completely fill in the gap, resulting in the widespread shortages of pellets.
"Over the past few months, we have received numerous reports of widespread shortages of rabbit pellets, which, if left unchecked could asphyxiate cuniculture production"
Mr Nyamakanga recently met with the Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister, Dr Anxious Masuka and lodged an appeal about the current shortage and skyrocketing cost of rabbit pellets.
Meanwhile, Bulawayo-based rabbit breeder, Midesha (Private), which is a corporate member of ZICORBA, has imported 50 pure breeds from South Africa to ramp up production at its rabbitry situated at the environs of Zimbabwe's second biggest city.
The breeding stock, which was imported from South Africa's leading rabbit breeders; Judy Stuart and Anton Gouws, include 45 New Zealand White and 5 Chinchilla Giganta rabbits, which are amongst the best rabbit breeds for meat.
Midesha, chief executive, Helmut Ncube said in an interview that the pure breeds import brings to 100 rabbits the number of breeding stock at his rabbitry.
"With a breeding stock of about 100 rabbits, this places Midesha in good stead to becoming the biggest breeder and rabbit meat producer in the greater Matabeleland region, which incorporates Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and Matebeleland South," Mr Ncube said.
Midesha is a diversified concern with business interests in farming, medical services and retail.
"As producers in the greater Matabeleland region, we have come together and agreed to ramp up production ahead of the establishment of a rabbit abattoir in Bulawayo in the next few months," Mr Ncube said.
ZICORBA president Regis Nyamakanga recently announced that plans were underway to open Zimbabwe's second rabbit abattoir in Bulawayo as production and consumption of rabbit meat continues on an upward trajectory in the country.
Ncube said that within the next six months his rabbitry will be churning out between 350 and 500 rabbits for meat everyday.
"I raised the issue of rabbit pellet shortages with the Minister during a meeting that he held with us, the leaders in the livestock industry, and he responded by tasking officials at the Livestock and Meat Advisory Council (LMAC) to engage milling companies to ensure that they released maize bran to stock feed companies," the ZICORBA chief said.
The rabbit industry has been growing steadily and is projected to benefit 1,8 million households in Zimbabwe through improved livelihoods and employment creation, he added.