Government has admitted that commercial ostrich production is faced with a number of challenges despite concerted efforts by state institutions to revive the sector in a bid to help diversify the agricultural sector.
The industry, which was first started in 2002, is not performing well with the Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Oreeditse Molebatsi, sharing the blame and identifying lack of expertise and experience by his ministry and promoters as some of the problems.
“The commercial ostrich production in Botswana is still at its infancy,” Molebatsi said in parliament when answering a question from Shoshong MP Phillip Makgalemele.
“Admittedly, the industry is currently not performing well with the low performance attributable to lack of expertise and experience of both my ministry and the promoters; escalating production costs and lack of infrastructure to support the industry,” Molebatsi said.
An estimated 6,000 ostrich birds are currently in the country with the bulk of 3,800 in Talana Farms and 1,500 in Dibete Multiplication Unit (DOMU) while the remaining flock is distributed amongst the small scale farmers.
Surprisingly, the animal herd of wild ostriches in Botswana is estimated at around 75, 000 birds, although these are said not to be suitable for commercial production and could harm tourism if killed for commercial purposes.
Of all the eight projects funded by CEDA none of them is operational while the ostrich contribution to the economy during NDP 10 to date has been through sales of ostrich birds, eggs and egg shells alone.
“The main challenge facing ostrich farmers is the availability of breeding stock as well as supply to sustain the abattoir, which is an EU listed export facility,” Molebatsi noted.
In a bid to revive the sector, the ministry has outsourced the abattoir facility to the private sector which is expected to be operational in the second half of this year.
“Since the abattoir will be slaughtering ostriches, this will motivate the farmers to restart their businesses,” he envisaged, adding “my Ministry currently supports the development of the ostrich industry through breeding and supplying of ostrich chicks to revive the collapsed projects and support emerging farmers.”
“The reopening of the ostrich abattoir has brought hope to the revival of this industry,” he concluded.