MILK production jumped 13% in the first half of 2019 buoyed by increased efficiency with the production target for the year set at 95 million litres, businessdigest has learnt.
Although there has been a marked improvement in the dairy industry from 2009, this is still far from meeting national requirements. Zimbabwe requires at least 120 million litres of milk annually.
Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers (ZADF) chairman Kudzai Chirima told businessdigest on Wednesday in the capital that the dairy sector has to date recorded a 13% surge in milk production.
“We have an increase of 13% in production of milk. I think the growth has to do with the increased efficiency in milking and the utilisation of feeds,” Chirima said. “We are looking at a minimum growth of 15% this year. We hope to produce 95 million litres of milk this year. If we go beyond that we would have done well.”
Chirima said dairy farmers face several challenges in milk production which includes receiving payments RTGS currency whose valued has been severely eroded against the United States dollar.
“We have experienced serious challenges in the payment system for dairy farmers. They are being paid in the RTGS currency which is losing value but farmers need to buy inputs in foreign currency,” Chirima said. “Even workers on the dairy farms are reluctant to be paid in RTGS.”
He also said the current drought has also impacted negatively on the dairy sector as it has affected the availability of stock feeds. Chirima said a number of areas have been severely affected such as Umzingwane in Matabeleland South.
The current fuel shortage in the country has also affected the dairy sector’s operations, Chirima said.
“The unavailability of diesel is a major problem because it means we cannot transport milk, which is a perishable product, on time,” he said.
Chirima said they have made very little progress in accessing funding from banks because of the punitive interest rates on any loans availed to dairy farmers.
“We have made progress with banks. For dairy farmers interest rates on loans cannot be more than 6% but banks are offering loans at higher interest rates which very up to 15%,” Chirima said. “Taking loans at the interest rates offered by banks will mean that farmers will be chasing for something they cannot repay.”
Milk production levels have dramatically plummeted from the early 1990s peak of 260 million litres per year as the industry struggles to recover from the devastating impact of the chaotic land reform programme and economic turmoil.
Statistics from 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.