Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE’s raw milk output dropped by 12,7 percent in February to 4,39 million litres compared to 5,03 million litres during the same period last year, official data shows.
Statistics from the Dairy Services Department indicate that retailed milk went down to 532 075 litres from 628 914 litres produced during the same period last year.
During the period under review, intake by processors also declined to 3,86 million litres from 4,4 million litres in the prior year.
In an interview, the Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers chairman, Mr Emmanuel Zimbandu, attributed the low milk output to an outbreak of livestock diseases harboured by the incessant rains the country has experienced recently.
“Milk output has gone down mainly because of the rains which we got recently. Both the farmers and the dairy cows are not used to such heavy rains as a result there was an outbreak of livestock diseases that came as a result of the excessive rains resulting in low milk production.
“However, the situation has since been contained and going forward we anticipate to seeing raw milk production improving,” he said.
In January, milk production rose to 5,53 million litres compared to 5,51 million litres in January last year.
In 2016, Zimbabwe’s annual raw milk production increased by 14 percent to 65,4 million litres up from 57,5 million litres in the prior year mainly due to improved dairy herd.
The Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers has projected that this year’s milk output was set to improve on the back of adequate fodder for the dairy herd following the incessant rains the country has experienced.
Over the years, the country has been failing to meet its milk production targets and in 2009, it plummeted to 12 million litres.
In 2014 milk output stood at 55,4 million.
At its peak in 1999, Zimbabwe produced over 150 million litres of milk and was exporting into the region and beyond.
Before the promulgation of Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, the low supply of raw milk was contributing to Zimbabwe’s high import bill as dairy companies imported whole powdered milk to supplement.
The Government is anticipating annual raw milk output to rise to between 97 million and 100 million litres by 2019 underpinned by the continued improvement of the national dairy herd as well as policies such as SI 64/2016.
SI64/2016 is a legal framework that restricts imports by removing several goods among them milk and dairy products from the Open General Import Licence.