THE country’s dairy herd has plummeted from a high of more than 119 000 cows to just over 26 000 in the period between 1987 and 2015, businessdigest has learnt.
By Kudzai Kuwaza
According to statistics from the Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers (Zadf), the dairy total herd over the 28-year period has nosedived from a high of 119 220 dairy cows in 1990 to a low of 26 502 in the period between 2011 and 2013.
The statistics show that in the year 1997 when the Zimbabwe dollar crashed, the dairy herd plunged from 90 832 cows to 53 370. The number dipped further during the chaotic land reform in 2000, dropping to 39 367 cows that year. The economic decline in the country reduced the total dairy herd to 26 502 in 2011 with the same number recorded in 2012 and 2013. The number of dairy cows has increased marginally since 2013 with the herd going up to 28 228 and 33 000 cows in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
The number of cows in milk production tumbled from a high of 50 314 cows in 1990 to just 12 498 in 2011, the Zadf statistics reveal. The number of cows in milk improved to 13 367 cows in 2014 and rose further to 15 562 cows last year. At the beginning of the land reform in 2000, the cows in milk production reduced from 38 151 to 29 975.
The statistics also showed that there has been a drop in registered dairy farmers during the period with the number dropping from 559 in 1987 to just 199 in 2013. Last year the number of registered dairy farmers was 203.
The poor state of the industry has also been reflected in the sparse number of dairy farms countrywide as pointed out by Lands deputy minister Bertha Chikwama at the Zadf AGM in July this year.
She said there were only eight dairy farms in Matabeleland South, 14 in Matabeleland North, 20 in Midlands, nine in Manicaland, 15 in Mashonaland East, seven in Mashonaland West and just one farm in Mashonaland Central.
Dairy production figures show milk production levels have dramatically plummeted from the early 1990s peak of 260 million litres per year to between 50 million and 65 million litres currently, as the industry struggles to recover from the devastating impact of the chaotic land reform programme and economic turmoil.