THE rolling power outages in the country have hit milk production hard, businessdigest has learnt.
Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers (ZADF) chairperson Kudzai Chirima said the power outages, which last for up to 18 hours daily, have had an adverse impact on the production of milk.
“We are have been heavily affected by power cuts, especially as you know that milk is a perishable product,” Chirima told businessdigest. “Our dairy farmers are now being forced to use generators for equipment, pushing up costs and affecting production.”
Low water levels at Kariba Dam owing to a poor rainy season saw power generation plunging by as much as 600 megawatts in March.
The curtailment of power imports from Eskom South Africa and Mozambican power utility Hydro Electrica de Cahorra Bassa has resulted in widespread load shedding which had social and economic ramifications.
Last month, Dairibord chief executive Antony Mandiwanza told businessdigest that the company needs reliable electricity supply to avert the risk of losing perishable food, milk and beverage products.
“Load shedding is a national issue and in our instance we process live products which is raw milk and you need to have a reliable electricity to process the products without delay. If you delay, you lose the product that is fundamental and this is not peculiar to Dairibord, it is happening with everyone else.”
Mandiwanza said the company’s factories are now being supported by constantly switching on the generators.
“As I’m speaking to you, at our factory in Chitungwiza we are running on diesel and at our Harare factory we run partially on diesel and on electricity and the same applies for Chipinge. Those are the common problems which we are facing,” Mandiwanza said.
The production of milk has been further weighed down by the shortage of foreign currency, resulting in farmers failing to buy critical vaccines and drugs.
The prevalence of tick-borne diseases has been another obstacle for dairy farmers.
Milk production levels have dramatically plummeted from the early 1990s peak of 260 million litres per year and are struggling to meet the annual national requirement of 120 million litres a year, as the industry grapples with the devastating impact of the chaotic land reform programme and economic turmoil.
The country’s dairy herd has plunged from a high of more than 119 000 cows to just over 26 000 in the period between 1987 and 2015, according to statistics by ZADF.