THE importance of the dairy sector in the Zimbabwean economic context cannot be undervalued as it is not limited to farming only — but has impact and ripple effect on voluminous upstream and downstream industries such as animal feed manufacturers, veterinary clinical and extension services, milk processors and milk products manufacturers.
Dairies have a ripple effect on both the agricultural economy and the economic well-being of rural population in this country.
Dairying is a vital part of the national and global food system. Our dairy industry ranges from makers of cheese, yoghurt and ice-cream through to big, high-tech super-dairies that produce bottled milk and cheese for major supermarket chains. A number of large dairies are located close to major cities, while some are in the main dairy farming areas and are a major employer within their immediate localities.
Milk and dairy products play an important role in a healthy and balanced diet and are rich sources of calcium which is easily absorbed by the body, along with other nutrients present in dairy foods, such as protein, magnesium and phosphorus, essential to build and maintain strong bones. The growing local and world population is demanding more milk and milk products —but currently consumption — is at odds with the ability to produce.
The Zimbabwean dairy sector produces about 60 million litres against an annual demand of 120 million litres and in future, the demand locally, is expected to swirl to 200 million litres, meaning that a lot has to be done to boost dairy farms across the country and possibly unlock a breeding system to spur milk production that meets or exceeds gradually mounting global demand for the bone strengthening mineral.
The Command Livestock and Dairy Revitalisation programmes are two such initiatives that the country should vigorously pursue in order to multiply both the national herd and milk production. It is a view that resources be availed to support these initiatives given the economic importance of dairying and the thrust towards increasing milk production, while reducing imports of milk and other dairy products in line with provisions of Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016.
Manicaland has so far received 99 heifers under the programme (Tsonzo Milking Centre (23), Africa University (15) all in Mutasa District, Rusitu (50) and Jobbet Farm (10) (Chipinge). The allocation depicts a drop in the ocean given the province’s ideal dairy farming conditions and potential.
There is need to do more to bring the best out of Manicaland. There is a continuous need for players in the dairy sector to partner Government in capacity building of smallholder farmers, credited for producing the bulky of milk in this country.
Milk production contributes to household livelihoods, food security and nutrition of the rural populace. It plays a key role in the sustainability of rural areas and it is a well known fact that the dairy industry actively contributes to the economies of a number of communities and provinces in Zimbabwe.
Milk also provides relatively quick returns for our small-scale producers, making it a vital source of family income. Government and private players need to join forces in looking into dairy productivity constraints being faced by smallholder farmers.
Smallholder dairy development is being constrained by refrigeration, marketing, processing, transportation, nutritional and husbandry issues.
In addition, small-scale dairy producers lack the skills to manage their farms as enterprises, have poor access to services such as health, breeding, training and credit, have little or no capital for investment and are thwarted by small herd sizes, low milk yields and poor milk quality and we call for their empowerment.