Over the past few years, milk and milk products have been dominating Zimbabwe’s import list. This is largely attributed to the sharp decline in local milk production from the 1990s peak of 260 million litres per year to 76 million which was achieved in 2020 against the annual demand of about 120 million litres, according to the Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers (ZADF). In 2019, milk output stood at 79, 89 million litres.
The milk deficit is augmented by powdered milk imported from neighbouring countries such as South Africa and Zambia. As a result, the country is spending about US$7 million per month to import powdered milk and butter. Every one of us can agree that this is not sustainable for a country like Zimbabwe which is currently battling foreign currency shortages.
Government recently launched Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy (FSTS) which is part of the Livestock Growth Plan (LGP), which among other deliverables pursues to achieve a US$8, 2 billion agriculture economy by 2025 which also scaffolds and propels Zimbabwe towards Vision 2030 to become an upper-middle-class economy.
To operationalize the FSTS, President Emerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa launched, a US$15 million cattle ranching project in Mhondoro last week as part of the country's efforts to boost the national herd. This launch of the Livestock Growth Plan, seeks to grow the sector to US1, 9 billion by 2025.
The program launched in Mhondoro will increase the cattle numbers from a 2019 baseline of 5,4 to 6 million in 2025 with a beef production of 90 000 tonnes and milk production from 79,9 to 150 million litres are some of the targets of the LGP. The programme also aims at increasing the national dairy herd from 38 000 in 2019 to 60 000 by 2025.
The European Union, ZADF and milk processors are also running other schemes to increase raw milk production in the country.
If the raw milk production target of 150 million litres is achieved as envisaged in the LGP, this marks the end to the importation of milk and related products. Apart from halting the importation of milk and related products the country will also resume exportation of the same into the region and beyond.
The discontinuing of milk imports and the subsequent exportation of the same will also cut on the country’s trade deficit allowing funds to be channelled towards other productive sectors and infrastructure projects such as roads, clinics, dams, schools and others.
Increased milk production also result in job creation and benefits to downstream industries such grain producers; manufacturers of vaccines, stock feeds, milking machines, chemicals, packaging materials and others.
This shows that Government has a vision and is eager to develop the country in conjunction with the private sector. Anyone with a vision must also see this vision and see how it intends to transform the country’s economy.
The situation on the ground is pleasing although improvements are ever a necessity on the earth. Most commercial and small scale dairy farms in Zimbabwe are well developed and compare very favourably with dairy farms in Europe and North America.
In addition, Zimbabwe has a raw milk processing capacity of 400 million litres a year although it is currently operating at 40 percent capacity owing largely to high production costs, low cow herd, lack of equipment and poor adoption of modern breeding technologies among other issues.
Dairy farming in Zimbabwe is suitable in most parts of the country putting no restrictions to anyone anywhere in the country keen to embark on dairy farming.
With all these positives, it’s possible for Zimbabwe to be milk self-sufficiency by 2025.