The local dairy sub-sector is still at an infancy stage, with the annual local milk production accounting for only 15% of the national demand, allowing the country an opportunity to develop.
As of 2019, local milk production stood at eight million litres of the 60 million litres of national demand per annum.
This is a slight improvement from 6.2 million litres produced in 2017 representing a significant 55% increase from the four million litres produced in 2016.
According to the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security’s director of Agribusiness Promotion, Kelebonye Tsheboeng the dairy herd has also not grown significantly to contribute to the growth of the sub-sector, which presents an embryo transfer technology opportunity.“As a result, imports of dairy cows, milk and dairy products have remained high. As of 2019, government imported about 38.9 litres of milk to meet the national demand,” she said.
As part of efforts to reduce dependency on imports, government in 2015 leased the dairy farm to a South African- based couple, Rob and Erica Ter Hofte on a 15-year lease. As part of the partnership, the couple was expected to provide farmers with practical training as one of the government’s efforts to reduce too much dependency on imports.
In addition government through the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security leased Kealeboga Tata (Pty) Ltd, which is trading as Sunnyside Farm in an effort to promote the dairy industry and with the intention of reducing the import bill.
Further government introduced subsidised sale of sexed semen for farmers to improve dairy herds. Other farms, which are in the process of development, are Sedibeng SES, Semitwe Dairy Farm and Milk Afric. Tsheboeng added government is in the process of identifying more land to allocate to investors in the dairy industry.
The country’s food import bill has been rising over the years from P6 billion in 2014 to P9 billion as of 2019. According to the agricultural ministry, the most imported products include durum wheat, beet sugar, maize, sugar, rice, sunflower, fruit juices, dog or cat food, cereals and cereal products, maize corn, milk, yoghurt, and spices amongst others.
“There is an opportunity to invest in almost all agricultural sub-sector value chains.
The bulk of the import bill comes from the processed commodities, indicating an urgent need for the value addition through establishment of processing centres in the country,” Tsheboeng said.