ZIMBABWE is set to breach the 100 million-litre milk production target this year as it works towards meeting the country’ current national annual demand of 120 million litres.

Last year, the country produced a total of 91,6 million litres, a 14,3% rise from 2021’s annual production.

Speaking at Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers ninth annual general meeting in Nyanga last week, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development minister Anxious Masuka said current production levels were pointing to the country meeting national demand.

“We are building a US$13,75 billion agriculture industry by 2025 and the dairy sector is a very important part of it. I am told that demand is increasing by about 15% annually and this year alone it has grown by 6% in the first seven months,” he said.

“Based on that, we will be able to grow to just over 100 million litres this year. I am told that you are milking just over 35 000 cattle. We must look for growth in terms of the number of milking cows and an increase in productivity per cow per day.”

A notable spike in raw milk production in the country has been attributed to investments by international organisations.

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In 2019, the European Union availed a US$7 million funding facility to Zimbabwe which benefited small-to-medium-scale dairy farmers in the form of 500 in-calf heifers in 2021 under the Transforming Zimbabwe’s Dairy Value Chain project.

Government last year rolled out a silage production programme to address viability challenges emanating from high-feed costs.

The dairy sector is saddled by huge overhead costs headlined by stockfeed which accounts for 70% of the bill.

Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution minister Misheck Mugadza said the province will continue to produce raw milk for the country to reach elf-sufficiency.

“The national milk production, currently, is over 91 million litres per year of which Manicaland proudly produces about 16% of this volume. We have medium and large-scale commercial farmers around Mutare, Makoni and Chipinge as well as some of the best-performing milk collection centres in the country,” he said.

“Small-scale dairy farmer collection centres include Mayfield and Rusitu United in Chipinge producing over 30 000 litres per month and supplying Dairibord Zimbabwe Limited. There is also Tsonzo, Sangano, Honde Valley and Cynara closer to Mutare. Manicaland province will continue to increase milk volumes.”

Mugadza added that the dairy models in Manicaland were evidence that with adequate support, dairy farmers can produce the anticipated high volumes of raw milk required to close the gap between national demand and the current supply.