Botswana’s dairy industry was compelled to introduce a number of remedial initiatives to stop the local milk production decline from 8.3 to 2.9 million litres in 2009 and 2012, respectively. Based on current year-on-year statistics, local fresh milk production accounts for only 5 percent of national demand with 95 percent being imported from neighbouring countries together with all processed dairy products.
Quantified into consumption statistics, Botswana imports 61 million litres of milk as a result of a local dairy production accounting for a paltry 3.1 million liters.
Dr. T.K. Phillemon-Motsu, the Director of Animal Production, attributes the decline in milk production to challenges besieging the local dairy industry, chief amongst which are costly dairy feeds, limited purebred dairy herd and low farm gate prices.
Phillemon-Motsu, who officially opened the Dairy Strategy Consultative Meeting on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture, Christian De Graff in Gaborone on June 27, said over the years government put in place many initiatives aimed at developing the dairy industry, to counter outstanding cases of Botswana’s retrogression and underperformance.
“Regrettably, the success of such initiatives in transforming the sector have been minimal, owing largely to the absence of a holistic sector specific strategy incorporating mapping of the dairy sector’s value chain,” said Phllemon-Motsu. “Nevertheless, the dairy sector has great potential for commercialization contributing to our national objectives of food security, poverty eradication, employment creation and rural development. It is for this reason that the dairy farming was selected to be one of the commodities included in the national Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) strategy. Your contributions will assist us to realize the full potential of a viable, competitive and profitable dairy sector.”
He added that weaknesses negatively impacting the dairy sector include small and uneconomic dairy herds, failure by farmers to use artificial insemination and poor management of dairy farms on issues of hygiene, breeding, feeding or record keeping. Even among farmers able to buy dairy purebreds imports, failure by individual farmers to grow their own fodder was a major stumbling block leading to animal malnutrition, low milk production and poor calving.
Unlike dairy farming counterparts in the developed world, the other weakness was failure by local farmers to produce dairy cattle for the local market, thereby making them more affordable as compared to imported animals calling for around P20 000 per head. Furthermore, lack of dairy policy and legislation coupled with poorly managed associations and cooperatives put the nail in the coffin, thwarting year-on-year growth efforts.