Zimbabwe’s largest milk processor, Dairibord Holdings Limited, says milk production has plunged following excessive wet conditions and heavy rains recently experienced across the country.
The plunge in output has seen some major supermarkets across the country without fresh milk. Only, a few retail outlets have locally produced fresh milk and some imported brands from South Africa.
Dairibord Holdings Limited CEO Antony Mandiwanza said he was expecting some improvement in milk supply in the market as conditions are improving.
“The heavy rains stressed cows. A cow produces a hormone that stimulates milk production. When conditions are adverse, the hormone is suppressed resulting in reduced milk production. Milk production yields drops as much as 50%.
Excessively wet conditions induce bacterial infections which suppress milk production,” Mandiwanza told Business Times.
“These are the main reasons why milk production has dropped that much and as conditions improve you see improvement in milk supply from April onwards.”
Mandiwanza said dairy producers are forced to complement with imported milk powder when the production is down.
But, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has ravaged the economy, coupled with Cyclone Chalane have made the importation of the powder an uphill task as supply chains have been disrupted.
“Covid-19 and Cyclone Chalane disrupted movement of imports from major ports thus resulting in long lead times. We anticipate an improvement given relaxation of lockdown,” Mandiwanza said.
In its financial results for the six months to June 30, 2020, Dairibord’s raw milk intake stood at 13m litres, reflecting a 6% decline.
This was consistent with the decline in national milk production.
However, Dairibord remains the biggest milk processor, accounting for 38% of national intake.
The company said it continues to be committed to supporting local farmers to grow milk supply so as to reduce dependence on imported milk powders.
The dairy processor further noted that the most significant limiting factor to growth in raw milk production over the period was the high cost of stock feeds, escalating at a rate higher than inflation.
To mitigate the erosion of producer viability, Dairibord continued to make frequent producer price adjustments.
The country will only be able to satisfy its milk demand in 2030 and currently the Southern African nation is failing to meet its milk demand which is projected at 150m litres per annum against the national milk collection of about 80m litres
Government is currently promoting the revitalisation of the dairy sector through various growth initiatives as a strategy to improve milk quality and quantity in Zimbabwe.
The current national dairy herd as at 2020 comprised 27,053 pre-breeds and 11,947 cross breeds, giving a total of 39,000 dairy cows in Zimbabwe.
Of these, 18,000 cows are milking.
Zimbabwe in 2020 was producing about 6.2m litres of milk per month and is still targeting to produce over 80m litres a year.