Dairibord Holdings Zimbabwe says it has imported over 1 000 heifers to boost milk production in the country after the national herd was decimated by disease outbreaks and farm upheavals following the government’s land redistribution programme.
Government statistics show that the national dairy herd, which reached a peak of 122 000 cows in 1990, had declined to about 60 000 by 2001 and 22 000 by 2011, leaving Zimbabwe to import milk to augment dwindling local supplies.
Dairibord corporate communications manager Imelda Shoko said that the milk processor was engaged in various activities to plug milk shortages in Zimbabwe.
“At the company level, Dairibord is the pioneer in importing heifers for onward lending to farmers in an effort to boost the raw milk available,” Shoko said.
“Since inception of this initiative, in 2012, close to 1 000 heifers have been imported and distributed to small scale, medium scale and large scale dairy farmers across the country. The company is already benefitting from this initiative.”
Industry statistics show that local raw milk production is 4.5 million litres per month against estimated national demand of slightly over 8 million litres per month.
The widening gap has witnessed regional countries exporting milk into Zimbabwe at relatively cheaper prices – a situation that has seriously undermined the viability of local milk producing companies that are facing high production costs.
Shoko noted that Dairibord also imports milk powders that are used in manufacturing processes to augment the locally produced raw milk.
“While individual processors have been implementing mitigatory measures such as importing heifers to boost raw milk production and importing milk powders for reconstitution, government needs to lead in terms of putting in place programmes that will ensure adequate raw milk production in order to eliminate the need for imports of finished milk products,” she said.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) in its monthly economic review for Zimbabwe recently said the influx of milk imports has undermined the growth of the dairy sector.
“Dairy farmers can embark on a number of strategies to improve milk productivity which is currently around 10 litres per cow per day against the peak of 25 litres per cow in the mid-1990s.
“These strategies include herd/breed improvement programmes, farmer cooperation in input acquisition and marketing which can reduce costs of production and increase productivity,” noted the regional banking group.- The Source