Sheep production in the Northern Division is expected to increase following the release of the genetically improved F1 Sheep Cross Breed at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Batiri Research Station in Vanua Levu.
While officiating at the official handing over of the genetically improved sheep breed today, Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development, Waterways and Environment, Dr. Mahendra Reddy said the improved breed would produce tropical meat sheep with an increased growth rate that would fetch a good price on local markets.
“The improved F1 cross-breed sheep aims to substantially increase the production and profitability of sheep farmers throughout Fiji and to produce prime lamb/chevron products and reduce sheep meat importation in the local market.
“The introduction of these F1 breeds on farms will boost the genetic make-up of the existing population and contribute to improved performances of these animals on local farms,” said Reddy.
Naserewaqa sheep farmer, Henry Smith acknowledged Government’s commitment to the industry as the newly released sheep breed would greatly benefit local farmers to develop their livestock farming.
“This is a good breed as it has more body weight and for farmers, this is what we look at because this is where the money is because, in this new breed, there is more body weight and body mass which is something we’re very thankful for.
“If Government continues to deliver on what it has planned for the industry, I believe in years to come, we farmers will be able to supplement our own sheep and there will be a decrease in the importation of sheep,” said Smith.
“This launch is a good start and the initiative in trying to get farmers to think commercially instead of remaining as semi-subsistence farmers are timely because this is one of the ways the sheep industry can grow substantially,” he added.
Compared to other divisions in the country, the Northern Division has the most sheep farmers, totaling 375 sheep farmers.
Meanwhile, there has been a slight decrease in the importation of lamb meat from 7,222tonnes in 2016 to 5,825tonnes in 2017, signifying a steady reduction in sheep meat imports and improved local sheep production.