——Government says one of the most viable agricultural enterprises with the potential of positively impact the livelihoods of the majority of Zambians is dairy farming.
Agriculture and Livestock Deputy Minister, Luxon Kazabu says in order to ensure that the dairy industry brings about the desired change the small scale farmers, opportunities for capital investment and financing need to be identified or created.
He says this is because small scale dairy producers produce substantial amount of raw milk in the country.
He said today during the official opening of the first ever two day agri-profocus agri-business financial fair which is being hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture and SNV, a Netherlands Development Organisation and other partners which is being held at Zambia National Service stadium in Choma
"Currently, over 80 per cent of all raw milk produced in Zambia comes from the small scale farmers, However, it should be noted that despite the efforts of our dear farmers and the great potential for the growth, the dairy industry still is a net importer of milk and milk products, such as powered milk which remains estimated at 25 million kilograms," he said.
The minister has advised small scale farmers to start producing quality powered milk in order to compete with other countries in the region and that government has intentions of putting up more milk centres in the country.
Mr Kazabu explained that the transformation of the traditional dairy industry through improved breeds, better animal management practices and increased herds seems to present a greater scope for expansion in order to meet the growing demand for milk while improving the livelihoods of the rural people.
He noted that with more than 20 million hectares of grazing land, Zambia has the capacity, even with the current animal management practices, to raise its cattle population from the current 3.4 million herds to over 7 million.
The minister said this and all other prospects present investment opportunities for the financial sector and agriculture remains a large source of employment and income generation for many urban and rural families.
He bemoaned the limited access to appropriate financial services and products for small and medium agri-businesses and small holder farmers.
Mr Kazabu added that lack of information on financial and insurance products also hampers the growth of the dairy industry.
He said government will support and remain committed to promoting private sector investment in agriculture and that it remains a key to sustainable development of the agricultural enterprises.
And Acting Country Director for SNV, Thomas Were, said in the agricultural sector small scale farmers in rural areas face an array of obstacles that inhibit their participation in the Zambian economy.
Mr Were pointed out that small scale farmers have problems securing access to credit and are often not served by traditional financial institutions and most manage their businesses informally and frequently do not have records or financial information that banks require for lending.
He said access to farm credit is critical, yet an undeveloped aspect of improving farm productivity. .