53 million litres from NCA dairy
The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry projects that the Northern Communal Area has the potential to contribute an additional 53 million liters of raw milk annually to the existing national dairy capacity.
At a recent conference in Windhoek where the dairy production chain was under discussion, this enormous dairy potential of the Northern Communal Areas came to light. But at the same conference,
supply pressure and a lack of competitiveness were named as some of the growth issues facing prospective communal dairy producers, effectively preventing their integration into a common national dairy value chain.
The possible contribution of small and informal dairy farmers was the topic of a public dialogue hosted by the Freidrich Ebert Stiftung and the Agricultural Trade Forum.
According to the Dairy Producers Association’s Wallie Roux, also present, currently all commercial operations are based in the areas of Grootfontein, Gobabis and Mariental with a total annual raw milk production capacity of 23 million liters which is all transported to and processed in Windhoek. Lucia Marius, spearheading current projects for the agriculture ministry in communal dairy production said farming systems in commercial areas are focused on crop production and livestock integrated with dairy production.
“Outside major towns demand for milk appears to be met by informal markets with dairy marketing done by traders and Small & Medium Enterprises” she said, adding that the challenges are low milk prices coupled with market access, feed shortages in the dry season and little knowledge of proper milk handling. “It is also [common] knowledge that these products are unsafe,” she said.
Part of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Strategic Plan for 2009 to 201 involving six constituencies in the Northern Communal Areas, as well as other small projects in the Hardap and Omaheke regions for goat milk production.
The ministry is also resuscitating the dormant Vungu Vungu Dairy project through a private operator to promote the agro-processing industry by encouraging communal farmers to establish dairy cooperatives. Dairy standards will eventually be regulated by a Dairy Board.
This, Marius said, is the conceptual framework for structural intervention to stabilize and grow the country’s dairy industry through a value chain approach.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Dr Malan Lindeque said the dairy industry should follow the same integration seen with cattle feedlots and Green Schemes where fodder production has become an important element.
Lindeque sees head-to-head competition with South African milk producers as unrealistic adding that the country “will lose the battle in the long run”, rather opting for focussing the national dairy sector on Angola to develop cross-border value chains.
Lindeque is adamant that fodder production should be given financing priority in providing industrial incentives and that the sophistication of management, finance, marketing and dairy genetics will require a system to guide farmers without them loosing interest.
Smallholder dairy farmer, Jackson Hindjou said at the event that it would be crucial to cross breed cattle in communal areas to allow for adequate production and supply. Hindjou runs Ndjoura Fresh Milk Shop in Okarara which he said is challenging in turning it into a mainstream business for the community. He encountered particular challenges in upgrading his operation with labeling and branding, and finding financing. Based on experience with smallholder milk production in South Africa, Katraina Eriksson from the Tetra Pak Dairy Hub Initiative : A Community Dairy Development Programme, said creating partnerships with commercial players is a possible solution.
By creating parallel value chains in developing smallholder farmers, the Dairy Hub concept links smallerholder farmers to formal value chains by increasing market for dairy products through central collection points for raw milk from producers.
Eriksson said addressing smallholder farmers’ lack of management skills and lack of adequately trained and qualified staff, is crucial for success.