MILK production has declined by 60,4% since government embarked on the land redistribution exercise in 2000 because many new farmers who went into dairy farming lack the required expertise.
A senior Dairibord Zimbabwe Ltd official told Busin
essdigest that milk production declined from about 245 million litres in 1999 to 97 million litres last year. This was after government and farmers’ unions failed to adopt a strong policy initiative to train the new dairy farmers.
The new farmers were given dairy farms to rear cows and produce milk during the fast-track land redistribution exercise, but have found it increasingly difficult to continue with milk production because the number of cows are dropping due to lack of stockfeeds and vaccines.
According to DZL, the national dairy herd has declined from 104 483 milking cows in 1994 to 35 000 in 2005. Per capita consumption of milk declined from 25 litres in 1990, to 10 litres in 2002 and an estimated seven litres in 2005.
“The major obstacle in (the dairy) industry was the scarcity of inputs. The new farmers realised that there was much more to dairy farming than leading cows into a milking pen,” said one farmer last week.
Stockfeeds were highly-priced because they were in short supply after reduced production caused by the disturbances on the farms and two successive droughts in 2003 and 2004. Dairy farmers say more than half the costs in dairy farming are from stockfeeds.
“Some dairy farmers were failing to access financial support from the banks, as their businesses had become too risky,” a farmer said.
He said over the past three years many cows had died after succumbing to diseases such as foot-and-mouth as the farmers could not afford to buy vaccines.
Figures made available by DZL revealed that milk production has been on the decline since 1990. National milk production increased from 150 million litres in 1980 to a peak of 256 million litres in 1990 and declined to 97 million litres last year.
DZL group director (manufacturing) Theodre Nyamande acknowledged the decline in milk production saying DZL would this year buy 450 cows from South Africa to boost milk production under the Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) model.
“There is potential to increase milk production to 140 million litres by the end of 2006 through concerted efforts by key stakeholders. There are regional opportunities for exporting,” said Nyamande.
The BOT programme entails rebuilding dairies, transfer of dairy management skills to A2 dairy farmers, increasing the size of the dairy herd through importation of heifers and access to the Agriculture Sector Productive Enhancement Facility funds.