Plugging the gap – More investment required in SADC’s dairy sector


Harare – Approximately seven percent of the world's nutritional and 15 percent of its protein requirements are supplied by dairy products.

It is estimated that 430 million tonnes of milk are being produced annually in the world by approximately 200 million cows.

Presently, milk production in the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and East African Community (EAC) is estimated at only 12 million metric tons against a demand of 14 million metric tons per annum.

It has always been accepted that dairy products should be part of a basic diet of any population because of the quality and cost of the protein, essential fatty acids, calcium, other minerals and vitamins.

This calls upon countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to invest more in the sector, which contributes much to the health of citizens in the region ‑ especially low income earners.

Of late, raw milk production has been going down in SADC countries owing to viability problems. So, to ensure that people have cheap protein, the dairy sector should get the same priority as crop production.

For instance, Zimbabwe’s raw milk production dropped slightly in the first eight months of 2013 compared to the same period last year, owing to lack of adequate pastures and a small dairy herd.

Figures released by the Dairy Services Department in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development show that 35.9 million litres of raw milk were produced between January and August 2013, down from 36.3 million litres realised in the first eight months of 2012. 

The country’s 2013 raw milk output is expected to reach 70 million litres from last year’s 55.9 million, although the figure still falls far short of Zimbabwe’s demand of 120 million litres per annum. 

Imports from neighbouring countries such as South Africa are filling the current gap in milk and milk products supply.

Commenting on the issue, Zimbabwe’s Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister (livestock), Paddington Zhanda, has said the government is consulting various stakeholders’ countrywide to seek ways of growing the sector.

“We are moving around the country making consultations with stakeholders to find ways to increase the production of raw milk and milk products. We have already covered Bulawayo and Manicaland. Soon we will be visiting the remaining provinces,” says Zhanda.

“What we want is to see an end to the importation of milk and its products. Currently, we are consuming more than what we are producing – filling the gap with imports.”

Zhanda says the government would do all it can to support and create a conducive environment to localise the production of milk products to grow the local economy.

The fact that milk cow converts 50 percent of feed protein into high quality milk protein as against 12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent in the case of beef, pork and eggs respectively, it means attention on milk production is required more than ever before in the region. Milk is consumed in the form of full cream and skimmed fluid milk, various fresh milk products, cheese, condensed milk, powder, various other products and butter.

The National Association of Dairy Farmers (NADF) in Zimbabwe chairperson, Craig Follwell, has said the association is engaging government and other relevant stakeholders to seek ways to up production.

“A number of meetings have been held with the relevant ministers, stakeholders and potential investors – it is hoped that positive feedback will result soon,” says Follwell.

“We are very happy with the support we are receiving from government. It is very positive for the dairy industry.

“This was particularly highlighted during the recently-held ESADA (East and Southern Africa Dairy Association) Conference in Harare, whereby a number of ministers attended and participated in the various activities available during the two-day conference.”

He urges producers to seek ways to complement government’s effort to increase production.

“As chairman, working with my executive and fellow members, I am encouraging small-scale and emergent operations to multiply and urge farmers to acquire as many dairy cows as possible in order to expand the dairy industry,” says Follwell.

Milk production in Zimbabwe plummeted over the decade ending 2009 to one million litres per month due to high production costs sparked by hyperinflationary conditions but the sector is now on recovery path.

To augment government’s efforts, leading milk and dairy products producer, Dairibord Zimbabwe Limited, embarked on a milk supply development programme during the fourth quarter of 2011 by importing 250 heifers, which were allocated to farmers across the provinces.

The move by the company follows a similar one by Nestle Zimbabwe in which it invested US$14 million into the importation of 2 000 heifers for distribution to raw milk producers association members in some parts of the country.

Zimbabwe is not alone in the dire need to recapitalise its dairy sector. For instance, Zambia smallholder dairy farmers contribute about 30 percent of all the marketed milk, while large-scale commercial and emergent farmers supply 70 percent. In total, all these farmers produce approximately 193 million litres of milk per year compared to the country’s total milk requirement of 253 million litres of milk per year.

This gives a milk deficit, resulting in Zambia importing about 25 percent of its milk requirement like most of its SADC counterparts. Statistics from Zimbabwe’s northern neighbour show that the players in the dairy sector, government and other relevant stakeholders need to collaborate and up the production of milk for the Zambian people.

Meanwhile, in an endeavour to increase milk production and income at household level, Malawi President Joyce Banda in April launched Presidential Initiative of “Two Crops per Year” and “One Cow per Family” projects to eradicate hunger and poverty.

The projects aim to strengthen irrigation farming and mobilise farmers in dairy production to push the Southern African country for self-sustenance in terms of milk production. Malawi’s dairy herd only comprises an estimated 12 000 cows.

Currently, there are an estimated 4 000 smallholder dairy farmers in the formal sector and around five medium or large-scale producers.

Total formal milk production is estimated at 6 500 metric tons, based on information from the processors and the Milk Bulking Groups. However, Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) executive director, Paul Zakariya, believes that SADC countries have the potential to produce adequate milk for own consumption.

“South Africa is currently dominating the region in terms of milk production. Most milk products consumed in SADC are coming from South Africa. We are failing as a region outside South Africa,” says Zakariya.

“We need to take stock of where we are as a region and put in place relevant policies that will guide us to self-reliance in terms of milk [production]. Once we do that we are bound to produce more for ourselves. Relevant policies will also attract investment in the sector.”

Zakariya said there was also need to capacitate smallholder producers. “When people come together they are bound to do better. So there is also need to form co-operatives for production, transportation and marketing of raw milk to realise meaningful retains.

“Co-operatives are not new phenomena in Southern Africa. What we need to be done is to revive them and go back to the old days when we used to have productive dairy associations selling to manufacturers daily,” he said.

It is estimated that between 1993 and 2020, the annual demand for milk and dairy products in developing countries would grow at between 3.2 percent and 3.5 percent annually, implying that the demand will be more than double over the period, from 168 million tonnes in 1993 to about 400 million tonnes in 2020.

December 2013
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