MILK production increased by 13% to 65 million litres last year compared to 58 million litres recorded in the prior year due to import restrictions and a dairy revitalisation project, businessdigest has learnt.
By Kudzai Kuwaza
According to the Zimbabwe Dairy Industry Trust (ZDIT), the 13% increase in milk production was in line with the target annual growth of 12%.
Although there has been marked improvement in the dairy industry from 2009, it still has a long way to go in meeting national requirements. Zimbabwe requires at least 120 million litres of milk annually, meaning the milk that is being produced is less than half of the national requirement.
“This (increase in milk production) has mainly been attributed to various intervention and initiatives by both the private and public sector stakeholders in the industry aimed at revitalising the local industry to ensure self- sufficiency in the commodity,” ZDIT said.
A restriction on imported dairy products which can be produced locally, ZDIT said, has allowed local industry to rebuild buoyed by increased local sales resulting in raised capacity utilisation.
“Industry is now self-sufficient in all dairy products with exception of cheese, butter and powdered milk which we still have to import,” ZDIT revealed.
Through the Dairy Revitalisation Project, government and private sector have put in place systems which ensure that prices of local and imported long-life milk are at par to prevent dumping of cheap imports, ZDIT said.
“This has resulted in increased capacity utilisation by local processors thus allowing for investment in the sector,” ZDIT pointed out.
The trust also attributed government support to the dairy sector for the increase in milk production. It said government intervention has boosted confidence of value chain actors, resulting in huge investment being made in growing the production base through herd growth which includes importation of dairy heifers and breeding locally, improving production efficiencies as well as installation of modern processing equipment and machinery.
Although there has been an increase in milk production, ZDIT noted that the dairy sector still faces several obstacles such as the high cost of production, inefficient production systems and unavailability of long-term funding.
The dairy sector, ZDIT said, has set a target of reducing cost of producer milk by between 5-8% per year through practical training programmes for farmers. The sector aims to reduce the producer price from the current US$0,53 per litre to US$0,46 per litre by 2019. The trust added that there is a need to promote investment into alternative energy sources such as biogas and solar.
To address challenges of lack of funding, ZDIT said, the Dairy Revitalisation Project has been put in place to raise funds for the development of the sector through voluntary levying of imports. The trust urged the government to introduce policies that will enable farmers to access critical funds needed for capital expenditure and to finance their seasonal cropping requirements.
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.
Statistics from the Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers (Zadf) show that the dairy total herd over the 28-year period between 1987 and 2015 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 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. In 2015, 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 last year.
She said there were only eight dairy farms in Matabeleland South, 14 in Matabeleland North, 20 in the Midlands, nine in Manicaland, 15 in Mashonaland East, seven in Mashonaland West and just one farm in Mashonaland Central.