Dairy sector eyes US$2bn target

16 Jan, 2022 - 00:01 0 Views
Dairy sector eyes US$2bn target

The Sunday Mail

Business Reporter

The dairy industry is rolling out robust initiatives and investments to grow the sector to US$1,9 billion in value by 2025.

It comes after the Government last year unveiled the Livestock Growth Plan, which is encapsulated in the overall strategy — the Agriculture Food Systems Transformation Strategy — that seeks to grow agriculture to US$8,2 billion in the same period.

Nestle Zimbabwe’s corporate communications and public affairs officer Ms Yamurai Zhou said the company was driving its flagship programme — Nestlé Dairy Empowerment Scheme (NDES) — introduced in 2011 to resuscitate the dairy value chain. She said NDES focused on sustainable agriculture and training farmers to positively contribute to the economy while improving their quality of life.

“We train farmers on milk production, cow/heifer assistance and how to create their own feeds through silage production and pastures as part of the NDES programme. New dairy producers are also encouraged to apply for grants to purchase critical production equipment,” she said.

Through the scheme, she added, farmers get matching subsidies as part of co-operation between Nestlé Zimbabwe and We-Effect.

The programme had evolved over the years to focus on agripreneurship, which entails support to dairy farmers and farming partners to have the agripreneurship mindset.

The concept is envisaged to accelerate the development of capable and willing farmers to grow their farming skills, competences and business management capabilities.

The Government, under the dairy sector revival plan, challenged players in the industry to complement efforts towards reducing feed stock costs, which negatively impact viability, as it accounts for over 65 percent of total milk production.

According to the industry players, uncompetitive stock feed prices on the domestic market contribute to the relatively high cost of raw milk at US$0,66 per litre compared to regional countries.

The price of raw milk in South Africa ranges from US$0,35/l to US$0,37/l, while in Zambia the product costs between US$0,33/l to US$0,35/l. Overall, uncompetitive prices of stock feed have resulted in low milk yields per cow as farmers compromise on feed mixes in an effort to become viable.

Since the launch of the NDES, Nestle has made considerable investments in the programme in terms of financing and knowledge transfer.

“Consequently, we have witnessed an encouraging year-on-year improvement in both the amount and quality of milk produced. Our initiatives have resulted in an increase of our milk intake by 259 percent in 2021 compared to 2020,” she said.

Nestlé Zimbabwe has assisted dairy farmers to drive the agripreneurship and sustainability strategy within NDES through establishment of milk-collecting centres.

Further, the Swiss company, We-Effect, also supported farmers through pasture and silage supply to reduce commercial feed requirements and installed solar-powered cooling systems to reduce reliance on electricity and diesel for power generation.

At the inception of the NDES programme, Ms Zhou added, the company excluded small-scale farmers, but as the programme evolved they were later on board. As a result, Nestlé began to create smallholder farmer hubs in 2015, with the opening of the Chitomborwizi Network in Murombedzi, Mashonaland West.

“We are pleased that as of today we now have three well-established small-scale farmer hubs: Chitomborwizi in Mashonaland West, Watershed in Hwedza, and Agro Prosperity Trust in Marondera.

“There are about 70 individual dairy producers in these organisations. For these farmers we have managed to install six solar-powered boreholes, supported them with 76 in-calf heifers and helped them with inputs to grow silage on 130ha.”

Dendairy, another significant player in the local dairy sector, said it had expanded up to 1 000ha of irrigated land in Kwekwe, with each hectare dedicated to lucerne capable of producing 25 tonnes of dry matter per year.

Dendairy director Mr Daryl Archibald said the current hectarage was enough to supply all its farmers.

“Of the 1 000ha, 650ha is available to grow to supply Dendairy farmers. This lucerne will start being supplied in the first half of 2022 to Dendairy farmers, giving them a very profitable conversion from feed to milk,” he said.

The biggest challenge for smallholder dairy farmers, he said, was the dry and wet seasons since dairy cattle require considerable feed all throughout the year.

“Thus, even as a smallholder farmer, you need to grow maize and put into silage pits for the winter and this is onerous and requires a smallholder farmer to be an expert in both dairy and cropping.”

He said by providing year-round affordable feed, smallholder farmers can focus on animal health, breeding and feed-to-milk conversion.

Dendairy spent US$3,5 million in 2021 on the initiatives.

As part of other initiatives to transform the dairy sector, the Government recently launched the Provincial Integrated Youth Skills Development Centres (PIYSDC) for the country’s 10 provinces, where over 5 000 youths will be recruited at each centre annually before being equipped with agriculture skills.

During the launch, President Mnangagwa distributed 700 heifers, which will be shared among youth across all the provinces under the Presidential Heifer Pass-on Scheme.

Meanwhile, under the Livestock Growth Plan, the cattle population is targeted to increase from a 2019 baseline of 5,4 million to 150 million by 2025, with beef production of 90 000 tonnes and milk production rising from 79,9 million to 150 million litres. The programme also aims to increase the national dairy herd from 38 000 in 2019 to 60 000 by 2025.

Share This: