By Genesis Carrero Soto
Caracas, Apr 13 (EFE).- Venezuela boasts the largest buffalo herd in Latin America and now is taking on the challenge of exporting the meat of that large mammal, which accounts for 20 percent of all bovine animals raised nationwide.
To achieve that aim, however, experts and breeders agree that key challenges remain, including obtaining health permits and overcoming the logistical hurdles that currently limit that sanction-hit country’s access to international markets.
President Nicolas Maduro’s recent directive on the export of buffalo meat provided a boost to local producers who own a total of 3.7 million head of buffalo, the highest total in the region, the president of the Venezuelan Association of Buffalo Breeders (Criabufalos), Nicola Fabozzo, told Efe.
But although a “comprehensive export plan” is being developed that includes the export of buffalo meat or live animals, genetic material and the full host of derivative products, buffalo breeders say an essential first step is to educate consumers inside Venezuela and coordinate actions to obtain the health certificates required by other countries.
The Criabufalos president said breeders have high expectations about potential foreign sales and will lean on cattle exporters’ experience as they prepare to export buffalo products more broadly.
“We’re working on exporting. Of course, we’re going to try to start with live cattle, but we should be looking for added value and try to bring in deboned meat, and that means looking at various aspects, the first of which is the animals’ traceability,” Fabozzo said, referring to the process of the product’s evolution from breeding until it reaches the market.
The president of the National Federation of Livestock Farmers (Fedenagas), Luis Prado, told Efe for his part that Venezuela has sufficient quantity and quality of buffalo to the meet the demands of international markets but is still working on compliance with health standards, noting that the Caribbean nation lacks a certificate attesting to its freedom from foot-and-mouth disease.
“The challenge is to overcome the sanitary issue in order to penetrate the most demanding markets on the planet …. but we’re working on it,” said Prado, who added that the Venezuelan Foundation for Animal Health Services is making strides with the immunization and control policies required to achieve international recognition as an FMD-free country.
The goal is to obtain that status following an evaluation process expected to take place in 2025.
Foot-and-mouth disease is a contagious zoonotic disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals, but is very rarely transmitted to human beings.
Prado said though that while awaiting certification Venezuela is exporting beef cattle and buffalo to nations that do not have that requirement.
The president of the Colombian Association of Buffalo Breeders (Asobufalos), Claudia Roldan, told Efe that achieving that certification (which Colombia has already attained) requires a “commitment by producers … to work in a sanitarily competitive manner, in an environmentally sustainable way, with everything that other markets demand.”
Recently, the second edition of Criabufalos’ national fair was held in Caracas, an event in which buffalo producers showcased their animals and educated consumers about this meat, which in the local market is often confused with beef.
One breeder, Eduardo Perez Estuve, told Efe that buffaloes are profitable because of their longevity and ample capacity to produce a type of milk that contains nearly double the fat of cows’ milk and is “attractive to industry.”
“We’re very happy with this export plan because what this does is provide more incentives to farmers,” Perez said.
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