CLOSE Government-private sector cooperation has seen dairy production improving by 38 percent in the five years stretching from 2017 to 2022 with milk output jumping from 66 million to 91,4 million litres while cows in milk also increased from 17 968 to 20 000 in 2021, marking an 11 percent rise.
In 2018, the Second Republic initiated the Command Livestock Programme, which was launched by the President Mnangagwa at Gwanda showground after the first distribution of 200 heifers was done at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in April the same year.
During the launch, the President handed over 660 heifers to 151 beneficiaries from Matabeleland South’s seven districts. The heifers distributed comprised Brahman, Brano and cross Brahman breeds, which were all a part of the 1 660-herd allocated to the province under the scheme.
“We are not financing this programme from the fiscus, but we got the money from the private sector, which has renewed confidence in us while we develop our agriculture sector.
Those who benefited will have to repay after five years and we are confident that at that time we would have empowered a lot of our people as we seek to build our national economy.”
The distribution of heifers under Command Livestock introduced new breeding animals with strong genetics into smallholder agriculture to boost national beef production for food security and economic growth. Command Livestock is providing heifers to farmers in all provinces, on a cost recovery basis.
The Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers (ZADF) and Zimbabwe Dairy Industry Trust (ZDIT) is leading the charge to restore national milk self-sufficiency, with increased local production also translating into a significant foreign currency saving for the country.
ZADF national chairman Mr Ernest Muzorewa concurred that the increase in milk production over the years was a result of joint efforts by stakeholders (farmer associations, Government, private sector and development partners).
“The Government launched the Presidential and Command Silage schemes, as well as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine with the Department of Veterinary Services facilitating.
These have proved to be the masterstroke for increasing the national herd.
“To curtail imports of unnecessary dairy products and develop the sector, the Government introduced a five percent levy on imported dairy products and such funds have been pooled into the dairy revitalisation fund.”
Mr Muzorewa said these joint efforts have improved productivity per cow per day and have seen the dairy herd increasing with improved genetics through breeding.
“Improved management skills through the provision of pluralistic extension services as well as enhanced animal health administration (vet services, processors, PUM jointly with ZADF) have resulted in the dairy herd and milk output increasing.
“Positive policies and a good regulatory environment such as the introduction of Zimbabwe dollar denominated fuel for farmers and reduction in milk powder imports are working to rebuild the dairy herd.”
Mr Muzorewa, however, pointed out that a gap exists between milk demand and supply as annual demand stands at approximately 130 million litres against current production of 91 million, a short-fall of about 40 million litres.
“There are challenges such as high production cost (stock feeds, energy costs), lack of competitiveness at regional level in the face of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), limited access to affordable finance, high cost of compliance, low-capacity utilisation of local dairy processing plants as well as an unfavourable pricing systems that still need to be addressed.”
Mr Muzorewa said their targeted dairy sector growth for 2023 was 20 percent and that could only be achieved through the promotion of on-farm feed production and formulation and improved efficiency at farm level.
“There is need for continual improvement of genetics guided by the National Dairy Breeding Strategy (NDBS) that was launched last year, as well as the efficient utilisation of funding availed by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development from proceeds of the five percent levy on imported dairy products.
“There is also need to lobby for the dairy exemption under the AfCFTA protected commodity list plus affordable financial services and products tailor-made for dairy mechanisation and herd growth,” continued Mr Muzorewa.
Mr Muzorewa said reduction in cost of production and cost of compliance, specifically the erratic power supply, as well as the widening of extension services provision together with encouragement of new investment in the industry were sure ways of revamping the dairy sector.
A beneficiary of the heifer scheme, Mr Lindwell Moyo of Hololo Village, Madona Line in Tsholotsho said when he received three heifers in 2018, he never imagined that five years down the line, the animals would increase to 11.
“From the scheme, I received three heifers and now I have 11 cattle. The cows are giving me at least a calf each year. At district level we have eight farmers who benefited from the Command Livestock programme and these now have a total of 28 cattle as a result of the scheme,” said Mr Moyo.
Another beneficiary Mrs Soneni Ncube, said she is contributing to the growth of the national herd, thanks to the Presidential Heifer Scheme that gave her a special breed of cattle.
“This is a special breed and very expensive because each one of them costs as much as US$800. The breed is different from our indigenous ones and it has really boosted my herd. When I heard about the programme, I was one of the first people to complete the necessary forms and in no time, we were told to travel to Bulawayo to receive the cattle at the ZITF,” said Mrs Ncube.
She now has a herd of nine from the three heifers she received. Mrs Ncube bemoaned the shortage of water and feed during winter as well as the unavailability of breeding bulls in their area saying the herd could now be even bigger.
She is growing banner grass that she mixes with stock feeds, which has helped reduce the costs of feeds. Another Command Livestock programme beneficiary Mr Philip Ndou of Mazunga area in Beitbridge said the number of animals he received in 2018 had now doubled.
“The major challenge we face here is the shortage of pastures and water, hence we are appealing to the authorities to help us,” said Mr Ndou. The country’s milk production peaked to an estimated 262 million litres in 1992 from a dairy cow herd of 122 000. Currently, the dairy cow population is estimated at just over 20 000.
Dairy processors have been contributing to the development of the Zimbabwe dairy industry through the Zimbabwe Dairy Industry Trust (ZDIT) with payment of voluntary levies to the umbrella body. ZDIT has coordinated the Dairy Revitalisation Programme (DRP) through collection of levies that have funded imports of dairy heifers.
The dairy sector also contributes to the beef sector through sale of male calves and females that have reached the end of their production life.
Regulatory compliance requirements and restricted movements due to the Covid-19 lockdown negatively affected milk collections and increased the cost of doing business in the dairy industry in 2020.
The dairy industry plays a very critical role in the Zimbabwean economy through its positive exploitation of the forward and backward linkages between the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Value chain players in the sector include input suppliers, milk producers, transporters, processors, wholesalers, retailers, and regulators, among other service providers.
According to Transforming Zimbabwe’s Dairy Value Chain for the Future (TranZDVC), the average milk producer price is estimated at US$0, 38 per standard litre as at June 2021, which is only 24 percent of the final consumer price of US$1, 60 per litre.
Meanwhile, stakeholders in the dairy value chain are optimistic of achieving 150 million litres of milk per annum after 91, 4 million litres were realised in 2022.
TranZDVC project coordinator Dr Edison Chifamba said the country would be milk self-sufficient by 2025.
“Since the inception of our project, we managed to set a new monthly milk production record of 8, 1 million litres in October last year. Next year the country is poised to achieve between 115 and 120 million litres of raw milk production.
“This feat has been possible because of the dairy farmer training programmes on managing the animals, feed formulation, hygiene, and many other daily routines,” said Dr Chifamba.
Their organisation, which is partnering other players in dairy sector rehabilitation imported 200 in-calf heifers of the Jersey breed from South Africa in 2020 followed by another 300 in 2021 that are compatible with the local environment.
Dairy Services principal dairy officer Mr Addmore Waniwa is upbeat the country will achieve milk self-sufficiency by 2025, thanks to the efforts by the Government, private sector and development partners.
“If the 91, 4 million litres of milk achieved in 2022 are gradually increased in successive years we will be milk self-sufficient by 2025. The country requires 135 million litres annually and shortfalls can be fulfilled via imports.
“Any demand and supply gaps in the dairy sector necessitate local processors to import powdered milk. There are also some products such as cheese, which can be imported but such imports require a permit, which is premised on the analysis of the shortfalls obtaining in the market,” said Mr Waniwa.
Mr Waniwa said the intervention of the four-year European Union-funded TranZ DVC that provides grants to dairy farmers was also a game changer.
“The Government policy of setting a five percent dairy development levy on dairy imports has also provided funds for farmers to build their dairy herd. The current productivity at around 14 litres per cow per day, though still below potential, has improved from the low figure of 10 litres per cow per day once recorded,” continued Mr Waniwa.
Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers (ZADF) chief executive officer Mrs Paidamoyo Patience Chadoka revealed that milk production had generally been on an upward trend from a low of 58 million litres in 2015 to last year’s 91, 4.
The performance of the dairy sub-sector is important for the growth of the national economy, job creation and food security.
Since 2009, annual milk production has increased from 37 million litres to 77 million litres in 2020.
However, the domestic milk production is still not meeting the local demand of 130 million litres per year resulting in importation of milk and dairy products and a net-outflow of foreign currency.
Zimbabwe was once a net exporter of milk and dairy products producing over 260 million litres per year at peak in the early 90’s. The opportunities for the sector are huge and include high processing capacity, well-organised farmers and industry players, Government strategies aiming for increased milk-production and several donor-funded programmes supporting growth and advancement of small-scale dairy farming.
However, there are several challenges affecting the growth, viability and the competitiveness of the dairy sector including low productivity, limited number of dairy animals and weak genetics in the dairy herd, high production and processing cost, limited access to affordable finance and foreign currency, high compliance cost and effects of climate change.