By Ndafadza Madanha
DAIRIBORD Zimbabwe chief executive Anthony Mandiwanza says the company has had to shut down some of its plants nationally owing to insufficient milk production in the country.
Addressing the parliamentary committee on Industry and Commerce chaired by Chimanimani East MP Joshua Sacco, Mandiwanza said government should ensure security of tenure to dairy farmers in order to boost productivity and attract investment into the sector.
“We have had to mothball our plant in Bulawayo because we are not producing enough milk, the same applies for our plant in Gweru was shutdown, our plant in Kadoma which used to make the best cheese in Southern Africa is also moth balled owing to the low milk volumes. Our Chipinge and Mutare plants are not operating at full potential.
Zimbabwe has far excess processing capacity but the supply base of milk needs to be addressed.
To boost milk production it will be paramount that government provides security of tenure to the dairy farms in order for the farmers to attract investment locally and beyond. While dairy farms designated for distribution under the land reform exercise should revert to dairy production as infrastructure at the farms is still relatively intact”.
At its peak the country in 1990-91 produced about 260 million liters of milk however; the figure has dropped to 70 million litres of raw milk produced last year against a national demand of 120 million liters. According to Mandiwanza about 550 commercial farmers were responsible for the record output.
Equally the national dairy herd has plummeted to 32 000 from its peak of 192 000.
He said the private sector can support government efforts through developing out-grower schemes but that was dependent on government putting in place the necessary support structures.
Mandiwanza said government interventions through investment in extension services, research and infrastructure will also help bolster milk production.
He said Dairibord had scaled down its Heifer program owing to the spiraling costs of importing heifers and had changed tact by bringing in semen which is then artificially inseminated.
Mandiwanza said the deepening foreign currency had the potential to disrupt operations in the dairy sector erase the gains that have been made in the last decade.
“From 2009 to September last year the dairy industry was receiving necessary allocations from the central and commercial banks hence the increase in production we witnessed from 38million liters in 2008 to the current 70 million liters”.