Tough economic conditions, animal diseases, drought, and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine are curbing the growth of Mzansi’s dairy producers. This has a direct impact on job creation and development in the industry.
However, Agricultural Research Council chief executive Dr Litha Magingxa says innovation and technology could pave the way to a brighter future.
“Climate change and other associated agricultural hinderances such as pests and diseases have changed the reproduction of the industry globally. This has resulted in a decline of a number of farmers we have in recent years,” he said.
“We have been hard at work as the Agricultural Research Council, looking at how we can be of assistance to the industry in this time of need. Our strategic priorities in the dairy industry include development and dissemination of climate-smart dairy production and innovative technological solutions to enhance resilience.”
Magingxa said it was better to prepare for challenges than to wait for them. “There will be diseases. Ports will close. There will be drought, but how we manage that is very important.”
Stagnant milk price
Eastern Cape dairy farmer Sipho Nondlebe said the last few years have been tough, and the current economic outlook is making things worse.
“The state of the dairy industry at this stage is a concerning issue. In the Eastern Cape –specifically Fort Beaufort and Alice Balfour – we have been facing drought for the past four years. Only this year, we received decent rains.
“This year, many dairy farms were attacked by locusts which led to an increase in buying of feed, but most concerning aspects are all the rising costs [like] maize and fuel. However, there has not been an increase in the milk price,” he explains.
‘Stay ahead of the curve’
Meanwhile, chairperson of the Milk Producers’ Organisation Colin Wellbeloved believes there is a glimmer of hope despite all the economic challenges.
“I think we are doing okay under tough conditions. Our milk production has not grown at a pace that suggest all is going well, but we also have not regressed to such an extent that we cannot recover.”
Wellbeloved adds, “We are conscientious that climate change is an immediate and long-term threat for which we must be and are generally prepared for. The South African dairy industry is world class, highly organised, competitive, and extremely robust and therefore it can adapt to new challenges.”
Wellbeloved says being ahead of the curve was the only way to truly better the industry.
“Pests and diseases are an ongoing challenge, so we must maintain our biosecurity and we need our government authorities to do their job well, and we can manage the rest.
“I believe that our future is assured as long we can continue to produce a highly nutritious food at a competitive price. We tick those boxes consistently. I believe the future is bright for most milk producers in the country.”
Investment in local producers remains key to ensure sectoral growth and job creation, adds Wellbeloved.