ZIMBABWE – Recent incidents of raw milk rejection due to contamination with antimicrobials have prompted calls for stricter adherence to food safety protocols within Zimbabwe’s dairy sector.

Dairy processors have highlighted the importance of observing withdrawal periods after treating cows to prevent the recurrence of such costly errors.

According to the Dairy Services Unit (DSU), over 96,000 liters of raw milk, valued at US$55,718, were rejected by dairy processors in light of antimicrobial contamination.

The rejection not only poses financial implications but also tarnishes the reputation of the dairy industry, particularly as Zimbabwe seeks to bridge the gap between milk demand and supply.

Mr. Addmore Waniwa, principal dairy officer at DSU, expressed concerns over the negative impact of such incidents on the industry’s growth trajectory.

“This is a very worrisome situation when the country is trying to close the gap between demand and supply of raw milk,” he said.

Despite a notable increase in milk production in 2023, the occurrence of milk rejection casts a shadow over the sector’s progress.

Tendayi Clementine Marecha, Secretary General of the Dairy Processors Association of Zimbabwe (DPAZ), highlighted the primary reasons for milk rejection, including antibiotic residue and improper milk handling resulting in souring.

She emphasized the need for farmers to adhere strictly to withdrawal periods and to refrain from administering unauthorized antimicrobials.

Marecha called upon regulatory authorities, such as the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ), to intensify efforts in controlling and regulating drugs in the informal market to mitigate such incidents.

Additionally, she raised concerns about infrastructure challenges, such as power cuts and obsolete cooling tanks, which contribute to milk spoilage.

Despite these challenges, Dairibord Zimbabwe has reported a 10% increase in raw milk intake, signaling progress in the government’s import substitution policy and local production efforts.

The company’s commitment to technology, training programs, and quality assurance initiatives underscores its dedication to sustainable agricultural practices and community empowerment.

Looking ahead, there is optimism regarding the growth potential of the dairy sector, supported by fiscal measures aimed at increasing local production and reducing milk powder imports.

Finance Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube’s proposals to gradually reduce milk powder imports align with the objectives of National Development Strategy 1, with the aim of boosting raw milk production and reducing reliance on imports.

While these initiatives show promise, maintaining food safety standards and addressing infrastructure challenges remain crucial for sustaining the momentum of Zimbabwe’s dairy industry growth.

With concerted efforts from stakeholders across the value chain, the sector can overcome challenges and realize its full potential in contributing to the country’s economic development.

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