On October 16, a local group of rabbit raisers will host the first Palawan Rabbit Festival to increase public awareness of the rabbit business and its potential for meat production in the province.
Joe Ibañez, chair of the Palawan Rabbit Producers Cooperative (PRPC), said that the festival will serve as a platform for information and education campaigns on rabbit farming, showcase meals out of rabbit meat, and distribution of rabbit breeds for some participants.
It will also raise public awareness of the cooperative, which was registered by the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) in 2020 with 15 members.
“Para ipakita sa mga kapwa namin na meron tayong pag-asa o may market sa rabbit meat o sa industriya ng pagra-rabbit. In response to that, bumuo kami ng coop. Noong una ay mahirap compared noong 2018,” he said.
“Magkakaroon kami ng contest na pabigatan para makita namin kung sino ang mabibigat kasi ‘yon ang concern natin pagdating sa meat, at least maraming meat ang rabbit. Magkakaroon din kami ng kaunting seminar about coop and raising rabbit,” he added.
The event will be held in their office in the Natua complex, just in front of the Fersal Hotel.
The Palawan Rabbit Producers was founded in 2018 by members from Puerto Princesa, Bataraza, Narra, and Aborlan with the goal of introducing rabbit meat to Palawan. It was subsequently formed as a cooperative in order to pursue the commercial aspect of the rabbit industry in the province.
To manage the audience and ensure compliance with health standards, the one-day event will limit attendance to fewer than 200 people.
It also hopes to encourage more locals to try the rabbit meat aside from the efforts of the cooperative to conduct information dissemination and seminars with different groups such as the transportation sector and persons with disabilities (PWDs).
The PRPC had supplied to some big farms in the province like the Palawan Eco-Agro Park and Yamang Bukid Farm.
Market of the local rabbit industry
Rabbit meat had a market in northern Palawan, particularly in El Nido, due to the tourism industry before the time of the pandemic. It was through the Palawan Eco-Agro Park, which is being supervised by project officer Edgar Clamor of PSFI and also a member of the cooperative, Ibañez said.
The rabbit meat is more popular with foreign consumers than the locals. Once the standard is formalized, the industry could serve more foreign consumers.
“Malaki ang potential natin dito sa Palawan, sabi ni sir Art (Veneracion) sa Palawan nandiyan ang turismo, itong mga Europian, hindi mo na sila kailangan turuan, they are very well oriented. Sa Europe, mas prefer nila ang rabbit meat kaysa sa chicken. Kapag pumunta sila rito mas hahanap-hanapin nila ang rabbit,” he said.
“Iyon ang naghihintay na industriya dito sa Palawan aside doon sa locals,” he added.
Benefits of rabbit raising
Rabbit farming helped Ibañez to earn and establish a business after a series of major eye operations from 2017 to 2018 due to congenital glaucoma.
He is passionate about rabbit farming because he wants to offer a healthy and nutritious source of meat for his family. His family cooks a variety of dishes, including Chao long with rabbit meat.
“Four months after my corneal transplant, February 2018 habang nagpapagaling, I started Joe’s Rabbitry. Iyong wire mesh cages ng mga rabbits sa picture ako po ang gumawa. I even upload a video tutorial on how to make that cage said Joe’s Rabbitry YouTube channel para makatulong sa mga rabbit raisers sa Palawan at sa kapwa ko Pinoy during the unang bugso ng pandemic,” he said.
“Kaya kung kaya ko, mas kaya ng taong walang kapansanan. May personal reason bakit nag-engage (ako) sa rabbit raising/farming— to provide healthy and nutritious meat for my family. And then I learned na prolific animal siya, pwede maging negosyo. ‘Profitable and sustainable livelihood’ kaya I (me) and my friends started a cooperative,” he added.
He also saw the potential of using rabbit urine and manure to help plants grow as fertilizer.
“Ang rabbit kasi hindi lang pang-food, napakalaking contribution niya sa farming. Ang ihi niyan ay ginagamit ko rin na fertilizer sa aking mga fruit-bearing (trees) at sa garden pati ang poops niya ganon din. May certain ratio (urine) with water,” he said.
Individuals also purchased rabbits from their farms to alleviate their stress during the pandemic. He is trying to enhance the rabbit breeds that are accessible in the province.
Standardization in rabbit slaughter
As a member of the Association of Rabbit Meat Producers (ARaMP), a national group of rabbit meat producers, the PRPC was included as a part of the technical working group in formulating the standards of rabbit slaughter.
The ARaMP requested the government particularly the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) and Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS) to formalize the standards.
The standard will be used in the slaughterhouse to ensure the safety of meat. It will also be helpful for them to supply for institutional buyers.
“To anticipate the bigger market para makabenta kami sa mga institutions, restaurants kasi ang pag-slaughter sa backyard ay wala sa standard ‘yon. Para matugunan ang bigger demand ng market, kailangan namin ‘yon,” he said.
The PRPC is also part of the technical working group drafting the road map of the rabbit industry in the Philippines.