THE Government has come up with strategic and innovative measures to bolster milk production in the country to fill the gap between supply and demand which is being compensated through imports from neighbouring countries.
The milk production capacity is just below 80 million litres per year which is against the annual demand of 120 million litres leaving a deficit of 40 million litres. Speaking during the Den Farm pasture and mechanisation field day in Kwekwe recently, Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Vangelis Haritatos said this year about 2 000 small-scale farmers were set to benefit from the Presidential Input Scheme.
“This year 2000 small-scale dairy farmers are set to benefit from the aforementioned scheme with the Midlands Province expected to have more than 300 beneficiaries. This action is aimed at addressing the under-performance of the dairy value chain in Zimbabwe by strengthening the linkages in-between production, processing and financing.
Annual milk production in 2021 was 75 million litres against an annual demand for milk of 120 million litres, hence new initiatives are expected to significantly bolster national milk supply and reduce the import bill on milk.”
Among various strategies Government has lined up programmes to assist dairy farmers such as the Presidential Silage Input Scheme basically for small-scale dairy farmers, the National Enhanced Agriculture Productivity Silage Scheme for medium and large scale, mechanisation, irrigation infrastructure development and investment in modern day technologies like artificial insemination.
Apart from technical support, the Government has also paved a way for farmers to access loans to invest in the milk production value chain.
“Access to affordable agricultural financing is being facilitated through various strategies including the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC), as well as reviewing the contract farming and agricultural marketing frameworks to cover all crops and livestock,” said Deputy Minister Haritatos.
He highlighted that Zimbabwe has got the potential of being milk self-sufficient while reflecting to yesteryear milk production capacity.
“Zimbabwe had a dairy herd of 123 000 cows in 1990 and at one point produced more than 260 million litres of milk annually, but production declined over the years, with an estimated 38 000 dairy cows left.
There has been a slow growth generally in both dairy animal numbers and milk production from both the large-scale commercial and smallholder sectors in the last decade, this was associated with loss of valuable genetic material. In the large-scale sector milk production is 18 litres per cow per day and the plan is to increase it to 20 litres per cow per day.”
He said collaborations between small and large-scale dairy farmers like Den Farm were highly recommended for a sustainable dairy industry, as it promoted the graduation of smallholder farmers into medium and large-scale dairy farmers. The Den farm project has a total herd of 2 210, milking 968 cows and producing an average of 23 litres per cow per day. – Sunday News