The Current State of the Southern African Dairy Industry

Foodcom Experts
5 min de lecture
The Current State of the Southern African Dairy Industry
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The South Africa dairy sector recently underwent many damaging changes. Milk prices were affected by the coronavirus pandemic that spread throughout the country. What impacted industry margins at the end of 2019 is the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak that occurred in South Africa. Whereas Botswana’s dairy industry was majorly impacted by water suspension from the Hardap Dam. In the bigger picture commodity prices are rising as adverse circumstances occur in the region.

South Africa

Following the report by Bonile Jack-Pama, Chairman of the Board of Milk South Africa, the domestic dairy industry found itself in a difficult position. As the coronavirus epidemic hit the country, it revealed the weak state of some agriculture sectors. The dairy sector had already been weakened by adverse weather conditions in 2019. This put financial strain on many of South Africa’s producers. As Jack-Pama states, the year on year increase in raw milk production for 2019 increased by only 0.65%. Milk SA representative points out, that such an infinitesimal amount of growth is a symptom of a poorly managed sector. Moreover, the number of milk producers in South Africa decreased significantly in the period between 2009 and 2019. In the August of last year standing for only 1 228, in comparison to 3 551, 10 years earlier. Despite such decline, the total milk to market for 2018 was 3 411 000 tonnes, up for 4,8% on the previous year.

MSF report on the fourth quarter of 2019, states that the total of imports of dairy products in 2018 was 17.7 percent lower than in 2017. Such a decrease from year to year was provoked by the decrease in imports of three out of the six categories of dairy products.

Despite rather uncertain and unstable growth in recent years, already mentioned unfavourable conditions in the end of 2019 and early 2020, are expected to negatively effect the dairy scene in South Africa. As it was stated in the mentioned report “is therefore reasonable to expect that the downward pressure on the profitability of the South African dairy industry will continue in 2020 and beyond.”.


Back in 2018, the Botswanan dairy sector was described as “one of the most underdeveloped and underperforming sub-sectors in the agricultural industry.”. The statement was given by The Chairman of the National Dairy Producers Association, Frans Viljoen. Due to the rising interest in milk among consumers, the local market could not keep up with the national milk demand and was supplying only approximately 16% of it. Following the data regarding the value of imports of dairy-related products, they totaled to about 47 846 000 mln tonnes. The cost of this import in 2019, summed up to $ 50 million.  Sales of this commodity group to Botswana decreased by 6.01% in value terms compared to 2018.

The Country that Botswana imported most from South Africa. Imports from this market took over 97% of the dairy imports. The Botswanan dairy market can be described as being dominated by non-domestic commodities. In 2019 the country’s dairy imports were over 65% of total imported goods.


In February 2020, just before the coronavirus outbreak, Namibia faced damaging droughts. The major reason behind the poor irrigation was water suspension from the country’s largest dam, located in the Hardap Region. This region is significant to the milk industry as producers from the area supply over 80% of the milk nationwide. As the water suspension occurred in the second week of February, Namibia Agriculture Union reported that the dairy industry “is in a huge crisis due to the continuing drought in some parts of Namibia and the accompanying poor economic situation in the country, to such an extent that some dairy farmers are exiting the industry”. Following the Union report, Namibia’s annual milk production had declined by 9% since 2018 when 23 million liters of milk were produced. Annual milk production output in 2019 was 21 million liters.

Moreover, the agriculture sector has seen a serious rise in feed cost (13% on a year-by-year basis, comparing Q4 2018 to Q4 2019) to the point when farmers’ expenses exceed their income. Nominal milk prices in March, April, and May 2020 stuck to 6,24 Namibian Dollar/liter. Such an outcome puts milk prices way over prices in 2019, which were around 6,05 NaD/l.

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