In addition to the multi-faceted crisis of food supplies that Botswana is set to experience, emanating from both the global upsurge in prices, and the challenges facing the country’s main supplier, South Africa in catering for the international array of sports activities which will be taking place in South Africa in 2010, milk will be one of the few precious missing commodities on Supermarket shelves, unless the country finds some magic wand early enough to play down that certainty.
According to Lebani Nthoiwa, Principal Scientific Officer- Dairy, in the Ministry of Agriculture, currently the country’s total demand amounts to approximately 115million liters of milk a year, the bulk of which is imported from mainly from South Africa. The figure includes both raw unpasturized and Ultra High Temperature treated milk, of this at least 3million is UHT, whereas the rest is fresh milk. For fresh milk, only 48% is produced locally.
To make matters worse, the country currently has only 6,475 dairy cows owned by137 farmers, and out of this only1989 are capable of producing, whist the rest are dry. Nthoiwa said, “Ideally, 80% of these cows should be milkable, but badly enough, it is the other way round, and instead only 20% is productive.”
This situation, unless immediately addressed, could spell disaster for this country come 2010.
As to why the larger number of the cows does not produce, Nthoiwa intimated that the problem of poor management and inconsistency and sometimes no feeding at all are some of the sure culprits, which have and continue to militate against a vibrant dairy production base in this country. Consequently, the cows become prone to diseases which stifle their potential to breed and therefore milk production gets low, whilst others end up dying unnecessarily earlier.
He said although there may be other contributing factors, they are probably secondary. The dairy Scientific Officer said in order to try and minimize the impact of any possible lapse in supply which is likely to result from the 2010 economic euphoria, it would be advisable for farmers to increase their breeding stocks of dairy cows and embark on modern methods of farming which will enhance improvement in production levels.
Furthermore, Government is planning to construct two additional milk collection centers in the country with facilities adequate to process and preserve large stores of milk in any given situation. One is already ongoing in Serowe, and is expected to be completed by the end of March next year, whilst the other one is scheduled for the year 2009/2010 in Francistown. All these projects are included in the National Development Plan 10 as part of the Ministry’s corporate strategy to brace up for the year 2016.
According to Nthoiwa, the current projected costs for each of the centers are 7.2 million pula.
Since sometime in recent weeks there have been media reports, both locally and internationally, projecting a heightening of inflationary costs on a global scale in the future, stemming from the swelling of oil prices and world food shortages. An example is given of the envisaged effect of converting considerable proportions of maize supplies into Bio-fuel by some powerful countries in a bid to battle the problem of climate change.
Dr Imogen Mogotsi, Economist and Head of Economics Department at the University of Botswana said, “All these are bound to exacerbate the effect of imported inflation in Botswana.