ZIMBABWE – Despite various challenges, Zimbabwe’s dairy industry has demonstrated promising growth, with a 13% month-on-month increase in milk production in September this year compared to the same period in the previous year.

Statistics from the Dairy Services Unit (DSU) revealed a notable rise in milk production from 7,836,526 liters in September last year to 8,869,624 liters this year.

Moreover, a year-to-date comparison showed an 8% increase, with the volume of milk rising from 66,848,702 liters in 2022 to 71,914,536 liters in 2023.

According to Mr. Addmore Waniwa, the Principal Dairy Officer at the Dairy Services Unit, projections indicated that 2023 might witness milk production reaching 100 million liters, marking a 7.5% increase compared to 91 million liters in 2022.

However, this figure represented a slight decline from the earlier target of 103 million liters due to several challenges that the dairy sector is currently facing.

“The dairy sector continues to be saddled with challenges like high production costs, low levels of productivity, and low dairy herd size and quality,” Mr. Waniwa explained.

Dr. Edison Chifamba, the coordinator of the Transforming Zimbabwe’s Dairy Value Chain for the Future (TranZDVC) project, concurred with Mr. Waniwa, emphasizing the ambitious target of achieving 15 percent annual growth, which is now facing obstacles.

However, he expressed optimism that they would meet local raw milk needs by 2025, as more farmers have been importing dairy herds that will soon begin production.

“To enhance productivity, our organization continues to import cows with superior genetics, with the goal of increasing milk yield from 13 to 18 liters per cow per day by 2025.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Reneth Mano, the executive administrator of the Livestock and Meat Advisory Council (LMAC), has pointed out that Zimbabwe still falls short of being 50 percent self-sufficient in milk production.

He highlighted that the country has been importing significant quantities of dairy products, primarily in the form of powdered milk and cheese from the European Union, to meet demand.

Dr. Mano emphasized that to eliminate the need for dairy imports completely, Zimbabwe’s dairy sector would need to introduce around 18,000 medium-yielding crossbreed dairy cows (or 10,000 high-performing purebred dairy cows) into the national lactating herd.

He also noted that the domestic lactating dairy herd is small, with an average milk yield that remains insufficient to achieve and sustain national self-sufficiency.

Addressing food security and nutrition goals, Dr. Mano stressed the importance of increasing domestic production to meet the dairy protein requirements of Zimbabwe’s population, particularly children in preschool to Grade 7.

He reflected on the past, when a daily glass of fresh milk for every primary school pupil was a government commitment that significantly contributed to the cognitive development and literacy rates of Zimbabwean children.