BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
ZIMBABWE’S milk production dropped by 7% to 17,8 million litres in the first quarter of the year due to a plethora of challenges, a new report has revealed.
Data released by the Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement ministry showed that total milk production in January this year stood at 6,5 million litres before dropping to 5,4 million litres in February.
Production was also subdued in March.
The current production levels are still not able to satisfy national requirements.
“The current dairy herd stands at 39 000 animals with 19 000 milking cows. The national target for milking cows to meet and exceed requirements is 32 000. Average production per cow per day was 13 litres,” the ministry said in its latest report.
“The smallholder dairy sector still contributes about 4% of national milk production. Productivity remains low due to the high cost of breeding stock, stockfeed and veterinary drugs.”
Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers (ZADF) chairperson Kudzai Chirima said prices offered by milk processors to farmers were not viable.
“We have a milk shortage in the country. Farmers realised that it’s not viable to produce milk at the moment because of the prices that are being paid by processors,” Chirima said.
“The prices are ranging from $42 to $48 per litre, yet some are selling at $157 while others at $127. They can’t even pay the farmer who is producing, at least half of that. Stockfeed prices have also gone up.”
To produce a litre of milk, Chirima said farmers would require about $57 as compared to the $42 or $48 they are being paid.
“We have engaged the processors and some of them have responded positively, they have increased their prices to about $50,” he said.
“It’s still slightly lower. What is happening is that farmers are not feeding their cows well because of the prices and cows are producing less milk. We have two farmers who have closed saying it’s not viable to produce milk.”
Despite these challenges, Chirima said farmers were targeting to produce 85 million litres of milk this year, against the national requirement of 120 million litres.
The country imports approximately 48% of its annual milk requirements.
Dairy farmers are struggling to access funding from banks because of high interest rates. Milk production has plummeted from the 1990s peak of 260 million litres per year to 76 million which was achieved in 2020.
In 2019, milk output stood at 79,89 million litres.
Government is targeting to increase milk production to between 97 million and 100 million litres per annum.
Recently, government and the European Union launched a US$45 million Zimbabwe agricultural growth programme fund which is expected to boost the livestock sector, maximise smallholder farmers’ profits and improve competitiveness on domestic and international markets.
At least 1 000 in-calf dairy heifers will be distributed to farmers on a revolving basis under the programme.
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