Shakeman Mugari/ Rodwin Chirara
SEVERE milk shortages that hit the country last year have bounced back with news that the retail sector has not received the product since last week.
Retail outlets in Harare have started rationing milk to customers. A snap survey carried out by the Zimbabwe Independent revealed that there is no milk in most outlets in the city. The few outlets that have the product have started strict controls on the amount of milk available per customer.
Dairibord, the largest milk processor in the country, blamed the shortage on erratic supplies from dairy farmers. Total milk output from dairy farmers has been in decline since the land redistribution exercise started.
The land reform, which started four years ago, led to a serious plunge in milk production as farmers went out of business. Dairibord reported that its milk intake slumped by 31% last year.
Dairibord chief executive Anthony Mandiwanza attributed the milk shortage to a fall in supplies from dairy farmers.
“The shortage has nothing to do with the Dairibord. We are only processors. We are just not getting enough milk from the suppliers,” said Mandiwanza. “Milk production has been drastically reduced. The volumes of milk we are receiving for processing have gone down.
“It is important to note that there is a cyclical reduction in milk supply this time of the year due to calving and the very wet and humid conditions that affect lactation in the milking herd.”
The number of dairy cows has been reduced by over 50% in the last four years due to culling which occurred as commercial farmers were pushed off the land. New farmers who have taken over dairy farms do not have the skills required to manage dairy herds.
The Agricultural Rural Development Authority (Arda) has started to move into the milk industry. It has already begun an evaluation of some dairy farms.
Meanwhile, Dairibord has confirmed that it is facing viability problems in its export ventures due to the foreign currency exchange regulations. Mandiwanza said the problems affected all exporters.
“Every exporter is facing viability problems,” he said “We are getting 25% of our forex at US$1:$824 but we are expected to buy our imported inputs at the auction rates.”
He said industry had already made representations to Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono to address the plight of the exporters.