‘Lack of coordination affects milk production’

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Bereng Mpaki

THE Lesotho National Dairy Board (LNDB) is seized with the unification of the industry to ensure that farmers arrest production costs, Chief Executive Officer, Abiel Mashale has said.

Mr Mashale said since his appointment last September, he has discovered that milk production costs have hindered viability while some farmers have even closed shop.

He told the Lesotho Times that he was working to ensure that farmers collaborate among themselves in their processes.

“When I came in, I found the industry divided,” he said.

CEO of LNDB Abiel Mashale

“If you compare with to the wool and mohair sector, you will find that the latter is more organised whereas the dairy sector has nor order.”

The wool and mohair association is made up of smaller organisations from around the country, while the dairy industry has two rival associations namely the Milk Producers Association and the Maaparakobo Dairy Farmers Association.

“In my discussions with the farmers, I realised that some are registered with both associations and that clearly demonstrates the kind of confusion reigning in the industry,” he said.

“Dairy farmers do not grow their own animal feed and this takes up over 80 percent of the total cost of production and the farmers have to import the feed as individuals. The costs become higher when each farmer has to use their separate transport.

“The farmers would effectively lower the transportation costs and also reduce the frequent visits to South Africa. The production costs would ultimately go down.”

He said farmers may further reduce their expenses if they coordinated transportation of milk to the market collection centres which spreads the cost among a group.

Mr Mashale indicated that his office had already met with relevant stakeholders including the government and the two existing groups to consider the establishment of a single national association, which would be made up of smaller district representatives.

“Next, we will go around the country and encourage all dairy farmers to register at district level so that they can nominate representatives in the national association,” he said.

He said they intend to adopt a model that has been implemented in India, the world’s biggest milk producer, where cooperative societies link up smallholder dairy farmers from as little as two cows.

“We are not only talking about farmers with dairy breeds, but we include even the ordinary cows. The idea is to increase our production capacity, because there is a demand out there,” he said.

He said by increasing productivity, the industry would also create jobs for various professions along the value chain.

A report compiled by LNDB indicates that the Lesotho Dairy Products (LDP), a milk processing plant at Ha Leqele, imported 629 000 litres of milk to augment local production in the last two quarters of 2017 for local consumption.

Another challenge for Mr Mashale is to strengthen the industry’s value chain which he admits is weak.

He also said industry needed to change how they handle processes like general care, feeding, insemination and veterinary services and processing which he said contributes to the state of the industry.

“We have held trainings for farmers in Leribe and Berea, where we assist farmers with knowledge on how to properly take care of their dairy cows for optimum production. The trainings will reach all the ten districts of the country.

“We also encourage farmers them to grow their own animal feed and at least use dairy meal as supplement since it is expensive,” Mr Mashale said.

Mr Mashale said there was need for production to be informed by market demands and indicated that the country mostly produces fresh milk yet 80 percent of the milk consumed is long life.

“We seem to be producing the wrong dairy products and assume there is no market.

“What we need to do is to move towards production of a wider range of products. We produce pasteurised and sour milk only. This type of milk has a shelf life of about 15 days. Importantly, these products are not doing well in the market compared to long life milk.

“My approach is to encourage milk producers to venture into production of milk with a longer shelf life and yoghurt,” Mr Mashale said.

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