The country continues to import up to 50 million litres of milk each year to meet national demand, despite local production improving steadily over the years, BusinessWeek has learnt.
Dairy production locally continues to be at its infancy with the local production accounting for about 20% of the national demand, a slight improvement from the 15% that was recorded in 2019. National demand is currently at 60 million litres per annum and at least 50 million of that is supplied through imports, senior government officials revealed recently. Local milk production has been improving over the years as in 2017 the country produced 6.2 million litres of milk, which was a significant 55% increase from the four million litres produced in 2016.
Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee recently, the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security acting permanent secretary (PS), Letlhogile Madisa said the government has faced several challenges in its efforts to raise the production of milk locally.
“We have encountered some challenges with some of these projects as we struggled to source dairy cows from South Africa as the country was downgraded to a Foot and Mouth disease zone,” he told legislators.
“The situation was beyond us as the outbreak of COVID-19 also affected our efforts to source dairy cows from the other countries like New Zealand and Namibia.” The major government initiative to boost local milk production is the Milk Africa project in Lobatse, which has faced numerous hurdles in getting off the ground. The project, launched in 2016, last year saw American investors exiting after years of trouble. The Botswana Development Corporation is now steering the initiative. Madisa said the Ministry was unimpressed with the quality of cows while Australia, which qualifies to export to Botswana, had proved inaccessible due to the high costs of transportation to Botswana.
In 2019, the government went to benchmark in Brazil and scored a deal in which that country would export embryos to Botswana, an initiative Madisa told legislators was affordable for Botswana. However, the COVID-19 pandemic put all the plans to a stop as the people identified for the project could not be taken for training.
“We failed to send people for training and everything has been put on hold till then,” the acting PS said.