Zimbabwe’s raw milk production in the first five months to May fell by 3% as successive droughts hit stock feed, official data shows.
Milk production in the country was on a steady increase since 2009, but successive droughts have stifled growth.
Latest data from the Ministry of Agriculture’s dairy services department shows that milk intake by processors was down 3 percent to 28.36 million litres from 29.19 million litres in the same period in 2019.
Retailed milk by producers marginally declined from 3.02 million litres recorded in the prior period last year to 2.99 million litres.
In May this year, raw milk production fell by 8.11 percent to 6.11 million litres compared to 6.65 million litres in the same period last year.
January output at 6.83 million litres is the highest so far followed by March output at 6.32 million litres. April output is the lowest at 6.01 million litres, largely attributed to water shortages.
Zimbabwe’s monthly milk requirement stands at 10 million litres, but in May only 6.11 million litres were produced.
The Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers (ZADF) chairperson Kudzai Chirima said the continuous droughts experienced in the last three years does not “encourage growth” as dairy farmers rely mainly on maize and soya output and cotton cake.
“There is need to make sure that the irrigation has been improved and that every single dairy farm is able to have green grass throughout the year,” he said.
Zimbabwe’s milk output growth has been averaging 8.3 percent (68.94 million litres) in the last five years, with 2019 recording the highest output of 79.89 million litres despite the adverse effects of the El Nino induced drought, which had an impact on milk yields.
Milk output rose 6 percent to 79.89 million litres in 2019 from 75.42 million litres recorded in 2018. But, the output missed the target of 100 million litres by 20.21 percent. It is also lower than the national consumption of 130 million litres.
The dairy sector faces high costs of feed to subsidize the low stocks of hay and also lack of long-term funding. In addition, factors such as shortage of water and stock feeds as well as erratic rains are also negatively impacting production.
The dairy herd stands at 38 000 and of these, 12 000 are in milk, producing an average of 14 litres per cow per day.
Working with the government and a non-governmental organisation, WeEffcet, ZADF last month imported 200 dairy heifers for small-scale farmers to boost milk production after receiving a 7 million Euro grant from the European Union (EU).
Speaking during the handover of the heifers at Dendairy Farm in Kwekwe, Midlands province, WeEffect project co-ordinator Edson Chifamba said 300 more heifers would be coming before August as the country enhances a wider inclusion of locals in dairy farming.
At least US$75 million is required to fully revitalize the sector.