Press Release 01/57
FAO RECOGNIZES THE INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT ROLE OF RABBIT BREEDING
Global rabbit production exceeds 1 million tonnes
Rome, 28 September 2001 - Ahead a major international rabbit breeding conference,
the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today that it is
ready to promote rabbit farming in its various livestock projects all over
the world. The 2nd General Assembly of the International Observatory on Rabbit
Breeding in Mediterranean Countries begins tomorrow in Ragusa, Sicily. The
Observatory is a network that promotes rabbit breading for food security.
"There is greater and greater recognition that the potential of small species
like rabbits, has been underestimated so far," according to Emmanuelle
Guerne-Bleich, FAO animal production expert.
"Several rabbit farming micro-projects have been launched by FAO in the last
years in Tunisia, Morocco, Latvia, Papouasia New Guinea, Barbados and Gambia.
TeleFood, an FAO awareness and fund-raising activity of World Food Day, funded
these projects, while in Cuba rabbit farming projects financed by trust funds
will be launched on a larger scale," the FAO expert said.
Potential projects have been identified in many other countries and cooperation
continues between the FAO and Governments to launch technical cooperation
projects in several parts of the world, including Cameroon and Mexico, according
The International Observatory on Rabbit Breeding in Mediterranean countries
has enlarged its efforts to include South and Central America as well as
At the Ragusa meeting, participants will exchange information and data on
rabbit breeding. They will also discuss what needs to be done to effectively
promote rabbit farming in countries participating in this collective effort.
Among other initiatives, they are expected to agree to launch a web site.
Rabbit farming has significant potential to improve food security and nutrition
in developing countries. Rabbits are highly productive, thanks to short gestation
and great prolificacy. A female rabbit can produce up to 80 kilograms (kg)
of meat per year, i.e. 2900 to 3000 per cent of its own weight in meat. Rabbit
meat is highly nutritious, lowfat, low-cholesterol and rich in proteins,
vitamins and minerals.
Backyard rabbit raising provides additional income to small farmers and upgrades
the diet of poor rural and urban households. Rabbits fit well in household
production. Investment and labour costs are low. Being herbivores, rabbits
do not compete with humans for their food.
Global rabbit production is currently estimated at more than 1 million tonnes
per year, according to FAO. The world's largest producer is China with 315,000
tonnes in 2000, followed by Italy at 221,000 tonnes, Spain with 135,000 tonnes
and France, which produced 85,000 tonnes. Among other rabbit producing countries,
Egypt produced 69,600 tonnes, Malte 1,350 tonnes and Cyprus 830 tonnes.
In 2000, Europe produced 570,051 tonnes of rabbit, Africa 85,782 tonnes (76,600
tonnes came from North African countries). South America produced 16,317
tonnes and Central America, 4,364 tonnes. In North America very little rabbit
is consumed. Production was estimated at just 35,000 tonnes.
North African countries produce 90 percent of Africa's rabbit meat, covering
15 percent of European consumption (570,051 tonnes). Morocco tops production
at 0.78 kg per person a year. Though there are some commercial rabbit farms,
most rabbit farming in North Africa is essentially artisanal.
Italy leads the world in rabbit consumption at 5.8 kg per capita annually,
far ahead of the world's leading producer - China, where consumption is just
0.07 kg per person per year. Chinese rabbit production is primarily for angora
fur, rather than for food. In Asia, outside of China, Indonesia is the country
that has most developed rabbit farming.
The constraints to widespread rabbit farming fall into two general areas,
animal diseases, including vaccinations, and a lack of production management
and technical training.
The rabbit was first discovered in Spain by the Phoenicians about 1000 B.C.
In Europe, rabbit farming really started in the 16th century. However, it
was only in the 19th century that it became widespread in both rural and
suburban areas. Judging from the European experience, many experts expect
rabbit breeding to increase substantially in developing countries because
it is a low cost activity, the meat is nutritious and there are few social,
cultural and religious restrictions against it.
For futher information please contact Emmanuelle Guerne-Bleich, FAO Animal
Production Unit, telephone: +39.06.57056660, email:
or Pierre Antonios, FAO, Media Relations Service, telephone: +39.06.57053473,