Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Manicaland Bureau
Small-scale dairy farmers in Mutasa have urged the Government to speed up their inclusion in the Command Agriculture Programme to boost production.
Tsonzo Dairy Collection Centre chairman Mr Washington Sagonda said farmers in the area lacked capacity to produce enough feed for their cows and this was hampering efforts to produce milk cost-effectively.
“Small-scale farmers are susceptible to shocks that happen in the market and they need to be cushioned,” he said.
“The price of stock feed is too high, we are currently buying feed at approximately $6 per kg yet we are selling our milk at between $5,85 and $7 per litre.
“This means the farmer is not left with a lot of money after production costs. If we join the Command programme, we will be able to grow food for our livestock and minimise expenditure.”
Mr Sagonda said with the Command Agriculture Programme, farmers could grow enough feed to sustain them throughout the year.
Tsonzo farmers are producing about 950 litres per day, of which 90 percent is sold to Dairibord while the remainder is sold over the counter to locals.
Mr Sagonda said if farmers have access to less expensive feed, they would be able to increase production to above 50 percent of the centre’s capacity of 4 000 litres.
“Since the beginning of the year, our milk supply has increased by about 10 percent to 20 percent. In January, we were producing 750-800 litres per day, but now we are at 950. Last year the highest we received was 750 litres so our milk business is growing,” he said.
Unpredictable rainfall patterns over the past years, Mr Sagonda said, also affected production.
He urged the Government to prioritise the drilling of more boreholes to ensure access to water. “We hope to get funders to drill boreholes so that we can irrigate our crops and provide drinking water for our animals.”
In the absence of boreholes, farmers rely on rivers which can dry up when there is a drought and also increase the risk of spreading of diseases between animals that drink from the same water source.