ZIMBABWE – The dairy sector in Zimbabwe has experienced a substantial 26% drop in imports of milk products, recorded from January to September 2022 to the same period this year.

According to statistics released by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStats), dairy product imports have seen a decrease from 6.5 million kilograms in January to September 2022 to 4.9 million kilograms during the corresponding period this year.

In terms of value, dairy products have witnessed a 16% decline from US$21.6 million to US$18.3 million. This follows a similar trend from the previous year, where dairy product imports fell by 16%, reaching US$31.3 million from January to December, compared to US$37.2 million in 2021.

Over the same period, the volume of dairy product imports decreased by 14% from 10.6 million to 9.1 million.

According to the government, the decline is attributed to an upsurge in local production. Finance and Investment Promotion Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube has been instrumental in steering a gradual substitution of dairy product imports by promoting increased local production.

The goal included a simultaneous rise in the uptake of raw milk by processing companies, aiming to increase from 70 million liters to 130 million per annum by 2025.

Meanwhile, the government has also initiated a phased reduction in milk powder imports, starting at 75% in 2023, followed by 50% in 2024, and further reducing to 25% by 2025.

ZimStats data also revealed that Zimbabwe exported 2.3 million kilograms of dairy products valued at US$3.7 million averaging US$1.56 per kilogram from January to September 2023.

The exported products include milk, cream, yogurt, buttermilk, curdled milk or cream, ice cream, butter, and fresh cheese.

However, this commendable achievement is overshadowed by escalating compliance costs, as stakeholders express concerns over the absence of a centralized one-stop-shop for ease of doing business in marketing their products

The dairy stakeholders voiced their concerns over the lack of a one-stop shop within government establishments, leading to increased compliance costs.

The absence of centralized services impedes farmers’ access to necessary facilities, proving both time-consuming and costly.

Dairy Processors Association of Zimbabwe (DPAZ) Secretary-General, Mrs. Tendayi Clementine Marecha, emphasized the need for a process, advocating for a one-stop-shop where industry players can submit a single application to obtain all required licenses and permits through an online system for greater accessibility.

She also highlighted concerns about excessive licenses and permits required from multiple government offices, including the Ministries of Industry and Commerce, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Health and Child Care and Veterinary Services.

The stakeholders proposed exemptions for spares worth less than US$10,000 from listed suppliers, easing clearance for pre-shipping inspections.

Notably, the dairy sector has also witnessed positive growth, with an increase in the milking dairy herd by 60%, reaching the current 30,800 from 19,202 in 2020.

Raw milk production is expected to rise by approximately 34% from 76.7 to 103 million by the end of the year. Processing level capacity utilization has seen a 15% increase from 40% in 2020 to the current 55%.

While certain dairy products are supplied entirely from local production, there is still a reliance on imports for items such as butter and cheese, highlighting the need for continued collaboration to strengthen the entire value chain.