Following a number of delays due to hitches the with Environment impact Assessment (EIA) the construction of Lobatse Dairy is finally underway. The dairy project is a partnership between Milk Afric (Pty) Ltd and the Lobatse Town Council. Milk Afric hold 90% with 10% for Lobatse Town Council through the Public Private Partnership model.
The Lobatse Dairy project sits on a 1375.4 ha land which is provided by the council. Speaking during the media tour of the farm on Thursday Milk Afric Chief Executive Officer, Phil Matibe said the dairy farm is expected to be operational by April 2016. Matibe said the total cost of the project is expected to be at $10 million excluding the working capital.
He revealed that when fully operational the farm is expected to produce a total of 21.9 million litres of milk a year. He said though this is not enough it will go a long way to help improve the local milk production and reduce imports. According to statistics Botswana’s current fresh milk demand stand at 65 million litres a year with only 3% been sourced locally. “We will be producing about a third of Botswana’s total demand. Though it will not be enough it will help reduce the importation costs,” said Matibe.
Milk Afric has since entered into an agreement with Parmalat Botswana who will be their processors. Matibe stressed that by the time Lobatse Dairy is operational Parmalat will stop importing milk form South Africa but get milk from them. A state of the art facility is expected to be built in Lobatse and Matibe said the dairy farm will be the first of its kind in the region as it will adhere to the biosecurity protocol. He said this when asked about their readiness to respond to infections such as Foot and Mouth Disease which is a problem to the farmers.
Matibe said with the dairy project they are looking at empowering Batswana as they will mostly hiring locals. He pointed out that they are currently having 25 employees of which all are from Lobatse. “We want the people of Lobatse to be the ones that benefit most from this project,” he said.
On skilled labour required for the sophisticated dairy operations it has been revealed that 15 Batswana will be sent to University of Florida to acquire the skills needed. The students will upon completion of studies come back work at the dairy farm. According to Milk Afric projections over 250 jobs will be created for Batswana at Lobatse Dairy. The project will also benefit the local farmers with land as some land has already been leased by Milk Afric to produce fodder for the dairy cows. Matibe said they have leased land in areas like Pitsane, Kanngwe, Rakhuna and Good Hope. “More places will follow as the dairy expand because the cows need a lot of feed,” he explained.
Local dairy farmers will also benefit as there is a programme for them to help improve their milk production. Through the OutGrowerNet Cow lease program the farmers will get the chance to be given Jersey or Holstein breeds from America to produce milk. The program coordinator Nelson Ngazana said farmers who show interest will be given training for them to benefit from the program.
Ngazana explained that the farmers will be given the cows to take care of and milk and Milk Afric will provide a tanker to collect the milk from them. “At the end of the month the farmers will be paid for the milk they have provided,” said Ngazana. He went on to say the company will however get a certain amount to cover for the expenses of the cows. Milk Afric has entered into partnerships with some local banks to help farmers with interest to be part of the OutGrowerNet program.
“This program will not only help farmers to get an income but it will go a long way in improving even the local milk production,” said Matibe. He mentioned that none of the milk from the farmers will be thrown away as they will use it to make by-products such as madila. He however said strict measures will be put in place to make sure that quality milk is produced by the out growers.
Lobatse Dairy operations will start with 2000 high breed milking cows brought from Florida in the United States of America. The cows are bought from Alliance dairies who are partners to Milk Afric.
Meanwhile Lobatse Town Council Mayor Malebogo Kruger has shown her delight for the council’s partnership with Milk Afric. Kruger said the project will help turn around the economy of the town of Lobatse. This comes following their trip to Florida, USA where they appreciated the model of dairy that will be replicated in Lobatse.
While in Florida the mayor and her delegation visited three different farms applying different types of dairy. “If what we saw in Florida is what is going to be done here there project will be a great success. We are very happy with what we saw and believe that Milk Afric and their partners Alliance Dairies will do well in Botswana,” said the mayor.
Kruger lashed out to reports that the council had squandered taxpayer’s money during the trip. She said it is unfortunate as the reports are misleading. Kruger revealed that the trip was fully funded by Milk Afric.
Lobatse Town Council and Milk Afric have signed a 25 year lease for the use of the land. Kruger said the lease is open for renewal at the end of the term. She said she is delighted that the dairy farm would bring new technologies such as the use of cow dung to generate electricity.