MASERU – Dearth of standards makes products from the Lesotho National Dairy Board (LNDB) unattractive both locally and internationally, Public Eye has heard.
Lesotho National Dairy Board (LNDB) Chief Executive Officer Abial Mashale said absence of standards in the dairy industry not only restricts them from selling their packed milk and dairy products outside Lesotho but also exposes consumers to foodborne diseases.
He said at the moment, Lesotho imports 80% of its dairy products from South Africa, exposing the local dairy board to intense competition as they are unable to justify the good quality of their products without accreditation and without standard testing equipment.
He said as much as LNDB is established under the Legal Notice No. 246 and mandated to develop, promote and regulate the dairy industry in Lesotho, there are no resources to prescribe standards of production, storage, packaging, processing and distribution of dairy products and to ensure the quality of dairy products offered to consumers is suitable for public consumption.
He said what even worsens the situation for Lesotho is that SADC has entered into a tripartite trade agreement which effectively makes trade in Africa free.
“This means that the market for products, including dairy products, is going to be more open than before. The free trade means that any country in Africa can easily sell its dairy products in Lesotho without any barrier.
“Unless we develop quality infrastructure, especially for the dairy industry, our dairy farmers and processors will never be able to produce high quality milk and other dairy products. Consequently, they will be kicked out of the industry by foreign dairy products.
“If that happens, it will mean poverty levels in Lesotho will worsen,” he said.
He noted that in the past two years LNDB has artificially inseminated more than 2000 cows, both improved and indigenous cows, and has assisted 19 dairy farmers to import improved breeds of dairy cows into the country.
Mashale said these were done to increase production of milk in Lesotho in order to reduce reliance on imported milk needed for processing by small processors.
He further said there is high potential of anti-microbial abuse in dairy farming because of their highly uncontrolled usage in Lesotho presenting a risk of milk chemical contamination.
“Milk and other dairy products like all kinds of food have potential to cause food-borne sickness. Dairy cows may carry human pathogens. The presence of pathogens in milk and other dairy products may increase the risk food-borne diseases.
“Poor animal health, unhygienic milking practices and subsequent milk pooling and storage also pose risks of further milk contamination from human, environment and growth of inherent pathogens,” he said.
To address the above challenges, LNDB is in the process of developing a code of practice for milk producers in Lesotho which will monitor animal health and welfare, hygiene and infrastructural and machine maintenance.
Mashale said the purpose of the code is to provide guidance to ensure suitability and safety of milk and other dairy products to protect health and facilitate trade.
“This code is also aimed at preventing unhygienic practices and conditions in production, storage, processing and handling of milk and other dairy products,” he said.
Dr Lineo Bohloa said the code of practice will come in handy to milk farmers because currently milk farmers are confused about the low quality and quantity of milk produced by their dairy cows.
She said with the code of practice in place, farmers will be able to identify the causes of poor productivity and eventually improve their practice to meet the needed standard.
She said the code of practice will guide the milk farmers on, among others, hygiene, animal health and storage of milk.