Swaziland Overview

Published by Swazi Review of Commerce & Industry (Pty) Ltd

Agriculture
Swaziland Agriculture

Practising sustainable forestry © Montigny Group

Government’s Programme of Action to 2018 declares that this vital sector will receive accelerated support in the form of broader access to water for irrigation purposes, assistance in crop-diversification and encouragement in adding value to primary crops through an increase in agro-processing activity. For the 2014/15 fiscal year the Ministry of Agriculture received a budget allocation of E540.3-million, up from the previous reporting period’s E533.9-million.

Finance Minister Martin Dlamini declared in his Budget Speech that priority interventions identified by government include:

Expanding irrigation infrastructure
He told Parliament and the nation that during 2013/14 the sector’s major undertaking had been the continued implementation of both the Komati Downstream Development Project (KDDP) and the Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation Project (LUSIP). These initiatives, Minister Dlamini said, have already transformed rural livelihoods through crop production and will receive further support going forward. He announced that earmarked for 2014/15 were:

  • E85-million to increase water-availability to farmers within LUSIP, an investment that government expects will create more than 4 000 jobs
  • E20-million to implement an expansion of LUSIP’s coverage area by means of extending the LUSIP Canal to reach Nsoko where the country’s fourth sugar mill is to be built: when the latter is completed an estimated 70 000 people are expected to benefit
  • E75-million for the rehabilitation of the Malkerns Canal
  • E18-million for the continuation of farm development under the KDDP

Dipping chemicals/livestock identification
The Finance Minister pointed out that Swaziland’s beef industry had through continued access to the lucrative European Union (EU) and Norwegian markets demonstrated the capacity for high quality exports, and said that livestock farmers should aim to intensify their production systems to maintain supply. He lauded the fact that the most recent EU Inspection Mission had approved the country’s standards and procedures for the beef industry. Minister Dlamini allocated E7-million for the Swaziland Livestock Identification and Traceability System to be rolled out and fully implemented during 2014/15.

Earth dams
Two medium-size earth dams were constructed during 2013/14 and government said it will continue to prioritise the provision of such facilities. The Finance Minister allocated E10-million to the construction of three additional medium-size earth dams in the Lowveld during 2014/15: he said that the initiative will increase employment and production opportunities in the respective areas.

Food security project
This initiative aims to benefit 21 500 farmers through the provision of quality seeds and basal fertilisers along with tractor-hire services and strategic storage facilities. Government announced that it will continue implementing the E111.5- million project by means of a loan from EXIM Bank of India. According to official statistics the agriculture sector currently provides employment for 70 percent of the Swazi workforce: commenting further, the Minister of Agriculture, Moses Vilakati, said that agriculture continues to be the dominant feature and driving force in the socioeconomic development of the Swazi populace. He gave an assurance that government will persevere in its endeavour to curb urban migration through income-generating opportunities in the rural areas.

MARKET SECURED

For the kingdom’s long-established agriculture-based exporters in particular, a pivotal development during this review period was the signing on 15 July 2014 of a new Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Swaziland and the European Union (EU). While details of the EPA’s ratification appear in Foreign Trade and Investment, in essence the EU had issued an ultimatum containing an end-September 2014 deadline after which Swaziland’s duty- and quota-free exports to the EU would have lost their preferential status and attracted prohibitive, financially debilitating import duties. Not only has the new EPA allayed the concerns of Swaziland’s traditional sugar-, beef- and citrus-buying clients in the EU, but it also provides much needed certainty going forward, whereby both the customer-base and the spectrum of exported products can be broadened.

Swaziland Agriculture

The Centre Pivot is one of three irrigation systems used for irrigating cane
© Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation

 

Green Gold
The EPA’s benefits were evinced soon after its ratification when the Swaziland Sugar Association (SSA) www.ssa.co.sz shipped to Spain, duty-free, the biggest single consignment in its 47-year history – 40 000 tonnes - and signed an agreement that will see an even larger volume – 50 000 tonnes - shipped to Finland, albeit over the next two years. SSA sales to the EU earned the kingdom E2.2-billion in the 2013/14 marketing season. (The processing of sugarcane and sales of the finished product are detailed in Manufacturing, Commerce and Mining.)

The SSA is the industry’s marketing agency and responsible for all domestic and global negotiations and undertakings. Through the SSA, Swaziland retained its seat on the International Sugar Organization Administrative Committee and continued its membership of the World Sugar Research Organization. The SSA has thus grown from a modest marketing and regulatory body into a sophisticated entity dealing with complex commercial issues, while also providing a wide range of technical services to the industry: it provides support services to the entire industry’s value chain which includes agricultural research and extension, cane testing, warehousing and distribution, marketing and policy advocacy. The SSA continues to strive for quality service in its operations and in meeting customer and stakeholder expectations: its operations are based on the ISO 9001:2008 standard, with a supporting quality management system. More than four decades of existence have seen the tonnage of SSA-handled sugar increase threefold.

According to the SSA’s latest Integrated Report, the area under sugarcane, countrywide, increased by 1 716 ha year-on-year to 58 979 ha in the 2013/14 season, and a mid-year forecast expects a figure of 59 586 ha for 2014/15. The area harvested, meanwhile, increased by 1 862 ha year-on-year to 55 528 ha and is forecast to expand by an additional 960 ha during the coming season. The total amount of sugarcane harvested during 2013/14 was just over 5.64-million tonnes – marginally less than during the previous reporting period – and the 2013/14 yield of 101.57 tonnes cane per ha was also slightly lower, year-on-year. The sucrose content as a percentage of the cane was, however, improved from 12.53 to 13.96, and similarly the percentage of sucrose that was recovered from the cane, from 11.65 to 12.06.

Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation Limited (RSSC) www.rssc.co.sz, situated in the north-eastern Lowveld, is one of the largest companies in Swaziland. It employs more than 4 200 people and produces two thirds of the country’s sugar, as well as a significant quantity of ethanol. Listed on the Swaziland Stock Exchange, RSSC is owned by several hundred shareholders, the majority being Tibiyo Taka Ngwane with 53.1 percent and Tsb Sugar International (Pty) Ltd with 26.3 percent. Other shareholders include the Swaziland and Nigerian governments, Coca-Cola Export Corporation Ltd and Booker Tate Ltd.

RSSC manages 21 901 ha of irrigated sugarcane on two estates leased from the Swazi Nation and manages a further 5 018 ha on behalf of third parties, which collectively deliver about 2.3-million tonnes of cane to the Group’s two sugar mills each season. These currently crush cane at a combined throughput of 780 tonnes cane per hour, producing in excess of 450 000 tonnes of sugar (96° Pol) in a normal season. RSSC also operates a sugar refinery at the Mhlume mill, whose capacity is 170 000 tonnes of refined sugar, and a 32-million-litre-capacity ethanol plant adjacent to the Simunye mill.

RSSC plays a significant role in the development of rural Swaziland, with over
2 500 families currently involved in sugarcane production as small-scale farmers who deliver cane to the two mills. From a land area of 11 356 ha they produce 1.2-million tonnes of sugarcane and supply 52 percent of the Mhlume mill’s and 25 percent of the Simunye mill’s total cane, respectively. RSSC provides and manages housing and all related infrastructure for its employees and their dependants within the estates’ towns and villages. Apart from the Group’s direct employees, a further 20 000 people live on the estates.

The Group provides healthcare at two site-based clinics which are centrally managed by a Medical Services Manager. The emphasis is on primary healthcare and the prevention of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and TB. First-class primary education is provided for employees’ children at the private, English-medium Thembelisha Preparatory School. The Group is also a founder member of the private high school, Mananga College. There are a further seven government-owned schools on the estates - four primary schools and three high schools - to which the Group provides substantial support. A wide range of recreational facilities are provided through two RSSC-owned country clubs and other facilities. The Group also sponsors cultural, educational and sporting activities.

RSSC’s Safety, Health and Environmental Policy aims to provide ideal working conditions, safeguarding those affected by the operations of RSSC and ensuring the maintenance of a clean and healthy environment. RSSC recognises HIV/AIDS as a strategic business issue and manages it at the highest level in the organization. This is facilitated through the HIV/AIDS Tripartite Committee in which Management, the Staff Association and the Union are represented. The two Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centres which were established jointly with NERCHA in 2003 continue to operate successfully. Free antiretroviral treatment, which became available to employees in 2004 through NERCHA from the Global Fund, continues to be accessible to all.

Sugarcane-growing
RSSC farming activities are carried out in a semi-arid environment where the average annual rainfall ranges between 600 and 700 mm, normally high intensity, short duration storms which generate a lot of runoff, resulting in less than half of the rainfall effectively contributing to crop growth. With crop water requirement being 1 450 mm per year, the balance is supplied through irrigation. RSSC remains among the largest single estates in the world that rely on subsurface drip irrigation: by end-2011, 47 percent of the area was under subsurface drip and 2.4 percent under surface drip. The balance is under furrow, sprinkler and centre-pivot systems. Efforts are driven by an intent to use water wisely and increase yields to above 10 tonnes of sugarcane per Ml of irrigation water, as well as to reduce fertiliser losses through leaching and washing away: the drip system enables refined and precise fertiliser application directly to the roots.

The Precision Farming techniques being implemented at RSSC are bearing fruit in minimising field-compaction through traffic zones, thereby promoting good soil health. These techniques also ensure that efficiencies are improved, which in turn reduces the amount of energy that RSSC consumes when carrying out its farming practices. The area that has seen drastic improvements in efficiency-enhancement is drip installation, which has increased yields over the same areas through the introduction of high-yielding varieties and improved gearing.

All of these farming practices are supported through robust programmes which are developed, tried and tested, either through internal research trials conducted by the Technical Services Department or SSA Technical Services, as well as via information obtained from the South African Sugar Research Institute or through benchmarking. RSSC Technical Services has a state-of-the-art, accredited laboratory that not only provides services locally, but also to external growers. Samples received come from as far north as Malawi.

Harvesting sugarcane is still done by hand, and a move towards cutting un-burnt cane (green cane harvesting) in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is nearing perfection. RSSC average yield per ha was 106.2 tonnes as of 2011 and is still rising: the objective is to achieve yields in excess of 113 tonnes while ensuring cost-effectiveness. A sucrose yield of 15.2 tonnes per ha was achieved in 2013/14 and RSSC says that this figure will be exceeded through the programme targeting increased efficiencies and improved varieties. 

The responsibilities of RSSC’s Agriculture Division extend beyond Group boundaries to ensure that all who cultivate sugarcane beyond the estates –Outgrowers - remain sustainable through a locally-devised model which has seen them develop in many ways. All of the Outgrower farms have experienced a turnaround through the programme, such that government has passed on to RSSC the management of a fund for the farmers that aims ensure sustainability of their projects. This programme has also enabled indigenous Swazis to participate effectively in the sugarcane growing industry and benefit communities through poverty alleviation. RSSC has made low-cost assistance available to Outgrowers in activities such as farm management, sugarcane growing, irrigation system maintenance and repairs, land preparation and harvesting.  

TIMBER: NATIONAL BOOST

In July 2014 the long-established local timber-producing group of companies, Montigny Investments Limited (Montigny) www.montigny.co.sz, with the country’s Public Service Pension Fund (PSPF) and the Swaziland National Provident Fund (SNPF) taking equity stakes therein, purchased SAPPI Usuthu Forest Products Company (Usuthu) for E1-billion: the PSPF and SNPF came aboard with injections of E600-million and E100-million, respectively. Usuthu’s pulp manufacturing operations – for decades a substantial earner of foreign exchange for the kingdom – were in the wake of 2008’s catastrophic forest fires amid plummeting world prices/demand no longer viable and shut down in 2010. The E1-billion sale included all of Usuthu’s plantations, its pulp mill site and the adjacent villages of Mhlambanyatsi and Bhunya, where the majority of its workers lived.

Montigny thus now owns and manages 80 000 ha, 50 000 ha of which is under timber, controls an additional 30 000 ha of community-owned wattle, and announced after the purchase of Usuthu that it intends making substantial additional investments into increasing its plantations by a further 15 000 ha. Montigny has over the years also helped communities and individuals to transform ‘wattle jungles’ into managed plantations and thereby enabled smallholder farmers to engage in sustainable, income generating enterprises. Technical extension services, a ready market and fair pricing have created hundreds of new small- to medium-scale timber, transport and farming entrepreneurs.

Montigny’s policy of fully adhering to Forestry Stewardship Council standards ensures sustainable forest management: no indigenous trees are harvested and plantations are managed on a sustainable rotation, taking the needs of communities into account. Such practices serve to advance the local timber industry through education, integrity and innovation, utilising as much of the harvest as possible to ensure environmental security as well as the best possible prices for suppliers and customers.

The vision behind purchasing Usutu was to restore it to full Swazi ownership for the benefit of a broad base of Swazi stakeholders and communities. Montigny recognises Usutu as a strategic Swazi asset requiring a long-term and ambitious vision, which together with strategic Swazi-based and -owned institutional investors and partners will unlock the potential of this underperforming asset. The vision includes the development and reinvigoration of the Mhlambanyatsi and Bhunya villages as stand-alone, commercially viable and sustainable property developments, in the process creating 3 000 additional employment opportunities, new community-based SMEs and homes for hundreds of Swazis.

Origins
Montigny is a Swazi-owned and -operated company which has been growing steadily since it was founded by Neal Rijkenberg and his brother, Ward, in Nhlangano in 1997. Montigny owns and manages its own plantations and also beneficiates most of the timber felled within these plantations. Due to its marketing strategy and the high demand for its products, Montigny also sources timber from other plantations and sawmills. It is now the biggest producer of wet-off-saw timber products (planking, crating, palleting and carpentry) in Southern Africa and is aggressively looking for yet further expansion opportunities. The Group of companies has grown over the past 17 years from a small sawmill supplying timber to one mine into a multi-faceted organization with an annual turnover of E800-million.

Neal Rijkenberg says that as a Swazi citizen he is passionate about the kingdom and believes strongly in ensuring that Montigny and Usutu remain under Swazi ownership and control. He leads a team which has created thousands of jobs in the country, established hundreds of Swazi-owned, community-based small-scale timber and transport businesses, and restored the town and community of Bulembu. The latter, which once served a now-closed asbestos mine and fell into dilapidation, is today a self-sustaining, Swazi-owned community-development programme which, in addition to having generated hundreds of new employment opportunities, has created a place of safety for 330 orphaned and vulnerable children who receive full-time residential and medical care, as well as schooling. As part of its commitment to investing in communities, Montigny currently invests 10 percent of Group profits in organizations that focus on children’s charities.

Outlook
Because of the Group’s experience in the local market and its ability to service international clients with a wide range of timber-related products, Montigny is well positioned to continue growing. It is committed to excellence in administration and product and customer service, ensuring mutually beneficial, long-lasting relationships with suppliers, service providers and clients. These qualities, together with a renowned line of products, have enabled Montigny to continuously expand to include ownership of four sawmills with onsite workshops manned by well-trained staff. Its own fleet of trucks, as well as contractual obligations by 50 permanently dedicated Interlink rigs, ensures consistent, timely delivery of products to customers.

Montigny currently processes and trades in excess of 700 000 tonnes of timber per annum, of which 70 000 are value-added, and by 2019 intends to be processing more than a million tonnes each year. The Group’s quality output and competitive pricing see about 45 percent of its products being exported to markets in South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Mozambique and Japan. (Montigny’s value-add processing of timber is detailed in Manufacturing, Commerce and Mining.)

OTHER EXPORTS

The kingdom’s sole export-abattoir, Swaziland Meat Industries (SMI), announced in May that it had reached its targeted export quota of 500 tonnes of beef for Norway during the 2013/2014 financial year. SMI Public Relations, Marketing and Communications Officer, Nozipho Mamba, attributed this to the solid relationship which has been cultivated with local farmers: she said that the company was looking to ensure a sustained supply of quality beef-cattle destined for Norway, and to motivating more farmers to join the incentive programme so that SMI could better exploit the EU market for which Swaziland faces no quota restraints. During 2013/14, SMI exported 701 tonnes of boneless beef to the EU, as opposed to 692 tonnes during the previous financial year.

Swaziland Agriculture

An aerial view of the RSSC Cane fields showing a water canal which is one of the Irrigation systems used for irrigating cane © Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation

 

The company issues loyalty cards that offer not only discounts and bonuses, but also substantive training in producing the quality of cattle that foreign markets demand, coupled with technical and financial assistance towards farming endeavours which are geared towards beef production. Going forward, the production of processed meat products at SMI is expected to remain on an upward trend as the company is making ongoing investments in improving productivity and efficiencies. The continuity afforded by Swaziland’s agreement with Norway and the already-detailed signing of a new EPA with the EU are seen to signal good prospects for the beef industry in the medium term.

In May, cattle farmers under LUSIP were given assistance in commercialising by means of E9.9-million worth of funding from the International Fund for Agriculture Development together with the International Livestock Research Institute. The project is aimed at luring cattle farmers into becoming entrepreneurs through capacitating them on how to develop their stock. LUSIP Project Manager, Samson Sithole, said that the donors were motivated by seeing firsthand that most of the farmers under LUSIP were not willing to sell their cattle to the available markets, yet the resulting excessive stocking-rates contribute to rangelands degradation. The latter, in turn, poses a threat to the bulk water infrastructure and the environment in general: the project thus aims at improving the quality of the animals, which then attract a lucrative price at the markets and motivate the farmers to sell their animals and circumvent future overstocking.

Citrus
This sub-sector recorded a year-on-year improvement in performance in spite of the continued reduction in area planted due to competition posed by the sustained increase in sugarcane-growing. According to a survey carried out by the Central Bank of Swaziland (CBS), citrus production increased by 8.9 percent during 2013/14 to 57 536 tonnes: this boosted total sales volumes, which increased by 7.4 percent over the 2012/13 reporting period.

According to the CBS, export volumes rose from 28 647 tonnes in 2012/13 to 29 863 tonnes in 2013/14, but this 4.2 percent increase did not translate into an improvement in export receipts, ascribed to three principal factors – quality of produce negatively affected by adverse weather conditions, generally dampened prices in the overseas markets and traffic congestion in Durban harbour during the marketing period which prevented consignments from reaching their intended destinations on time. As a result, export receipts fell from E87.4-million in 2012/13 to E84-million in 2013/14. This decrease would have been more pronounced were it not for the weaker exchange rate that cushioned export revenue in local currency terms.

The domestic market continued to provide an alternative outlet, and sales volumes increased by 11.2 percent year-on-year to 26 707 tonnes in 2013/14. This factor, coupled with improved prices locally, resulted in domestic sales revenues surging from E35.4-million in 2012/13 to E42.1-million in the most recent period. Prospects for the citrus industry are according to the CBS not promising, as production continues to be compromised by changing climatic conditions: during fourth-quarter 2013 a severe hailstorm destroyed almost two-thirds of the citrus crop and 20 percent of the bananas in one of the largest citrus plantations in the country, which will significantly decrease citrus production in the medium term. Furthermore, the changing consumption patterns in the EU market are said to remain a long-term threat to this sector.

Rhodes Food Group www.rhodesfoodgroup.com subsidiary, Swazican, runs the kingdom’s sole canning operation, established in 1954 when pineapples were first grown commercially in the country. Situated in the fertile Malkerns Valley, Swazican is today a leading producer of processed pineapple and citrus products and remains the primary grower of pineapples in Swaziland via its extensive, self-owned plantations. Swazican is also the producer of Rhodes Food Group’s choice-grade canned jams and marmalades. The processing plant maintains high food-safety standards, with annual HACCP and BRC certifications in place. The product range comprises canned citrus (orange and grapefruit segments), canned pineapple (slices, pieces and crush), citrus and pineapple juice concentrate, plus a range of prepared fruit and jelly products packed in plastic cups, as well as assorted jams and marmalades in jars and cans.

Vegetables
CEO of the National Agricultural Marketing Board (NAMBoard) www.namboard.co.sz, Siphephelo Dlamini, used the occasion of a sector prize-giving ceremony to announce that the public enterprise had during 2013/14 facilitated the export to South Africa and other markets of more than 400 tonnes of locally grown vegetables. He said that Swaziland was making significant headway in the area of producing high quality conventional and baby vegetables, with the country’s footprint gaining more traction as export-market links continued to expand. The CEO described this positive development as being a result of the reputation that NAMBoard was gaining for both ensuring consistency of supply and being able to deliver the necessary critical mass. He said that NAMBoard, in tandem with various sub-sector parastatal entities, had been spearheading robust, collaborative initiatives to see the country take a focused approach in the expansion of all facets of agriculture so as to attain the objectives enshrined in Vision 2022.

  • Government’s Programme of Action to 2018 aims to see commercial vegetable production by SMMEs increase to E25-million from the E12-million recorded in 2013/14: this will reflect the impact of the training and capacitating initiatives that the current Administration introduced. These include a particular focus on assistance, especially training schemes for 2 000 farmers each year, to give rise to increased production in selected, diversified products. Annual deliveries to NAMBoard for marketing are seen as a reasonable assessment of the level of SMME commercial activity. The programme states that government will support NAMBoard in the development of fruit and vegetable packaging centres, and that at least one new NAMBoard packaging centre will be constructed in each of the kingdom’s four regions. The document goes on to declare that through the various agricultural boards, access to more international markets will be achieved by NAMBoard securing an increase in the number of products that are accredited for international markets. Much of the increase in SMME-origin production, especially that of vegetables, will importantly serve to achieve higher levels of import substitution.

HOME FRONT

The area under maize improved by 17.7 percent year-on-year to 61 300 ha as the result of favourable rainfall distribution that encouraged farmers to expand their activities. In line with the increased area planted, maize production rose from 76 019 to 81 934 tonnes in the period under review, but due to erratic weather characterised by dry spells in the middle of the season, yields were lower, at 1.34 tonnes per ha, compared to the previous season’s 1.46 tonnes per ha. Despite the improved harvest, maize production again fell far short of domestic consumption requirements, necessitating continued dependence on imports to cover the deficit: the National Maize Corporation (NMC) purchased 22 760 tonnes from South Africa, 4.7 percent less than during the previous year.

Swaziland Agriculture

New wet-off-saw production line at Montigny Usutu © Montigny Group

 

Prospects for maize are said to be positive in the medium term: during the most recent planting season the NMC and the Ministry of Agriculture observed a yet further significant increase in the area planted – 40 percent, and aided by adequate rainfall in most parts of the country. The resulting output is thereby forecast to exceed the 100 000 tonnes mark. Looking further ahead, authorities say that much depends on the disbursement of a substantial loan from EXIM Bank of India which focuses on increasing by about 130 the number of tractors that government avails to farmers at subsidised rates in order to minimise delays in cultivation. Unfavourable conditions associated with climate change are becoming increasingly pronounced and are a nationally-declared challenge going forward.

The 2013 – 2018 Administration set itself the target of attaining maize production of
140 000 tonnes by term-end and thereby establish a platform for the country to reach 160 000 tonnes by the ‘due date’ of Vision 2022. Government said that the 60 percent increase on present levels will require a price support and input assistance scheme for farmers, as well as extensive training and a local seed production programme. A pledge was made to give agriculture accelerated support in broader access to water for irrigation purposes, assistance in crop diversification and encouragement in value-adding through an increase in agro-processing activity. By 2018, government seeks to increase the area under irrigation by 10 000 ha through the construction of 25 medium-size and 12 small dams each year, en route to a further increase of 4 000 ha by 2022. 

Swaziland Dairy Board (SDB) www.dairyboard.co.sz, in line with its mandate to develop and regulate the local dairy industry, focuses on sustainable development and creation of an enabling environment for the local dairy industry through empowerment and provision of extension services to existing and potential stakeholders at various levels of the value chain. A number of dairy development initiatives have been developed and implemented by the Board in an endeavour to improve performance and competitiveness in the sector.

Among the major focus areas is the building of long-term skills and capacity to enable efficiency and competitiveness: the Board continues to work closely with relevant stakeholders as a means to explore all possible ways of improving service delivery and innovation in the industry. While other prime objectives include improved service outreach, mentorship and coaching, along with improved fodder-flow, animal health and breeding, the strategic focus of the Board is to stimulate local production in order to reduce the country’s heavy reliance on imports.

The most recent statistics published by the SDB, as measured in Million Litres Liquid Milk Equivalents, reveal:

  • Domestic Consumption – 68.94 in 2013, compared to 65.68 in 2012 and 57.31 in 2011
  • Domestic Production – 10.64 in 2013, compared to 9.76 in 2012 and 8.66 in 2011
  • Imports – 58.30 in 2013, compared to 55.9 in 2012 and 48.65 in 2011

The SDB pointed out in an accompanying statement that these figures demonstrate how the increasing demand for milk and milk products has decelerated between 2011 and 2013: the increase recorded between 2012 and 2013 was five percent, as compared to the 12.74 percent witnessed between 2011 to 2012. Even though domestic production of raw milk in 2013 reflected a nine percent year-on-year-increase, it continued to fall short of the rising demand for dairy products: imports constituted about 84.5 percent of milk and milk products in 2013.

The 2013 Livestock Census recorded 4 561 dairy cows, compared to 4 787 in 2012. The number of dairy farmers in 2013 stood at 420, a seven percent decrease from the 452 in 2012. About 88 percent of the latest tally practise on Swazi Nation Land, the remainder on Title Deed Land. In 2013 a better price for their produce in the formal market was negotiated, to around E4.80 per litre from the E4.50 per litre offered in 2012.

Locally produced dairy products, measured in kg/l, were listed by the SDB as:

  • Dairy Juice – 623 923 in 2012, compared to 762 550 in 2011
  • Emasi – 4 418 696 in 2012, compared to 3 607 716 in 2011
  • Fresh Cream – 3 343 in 2012, compared to 1 334 in 2011
  • Fresh Milk – 294 234 in 2012, compared to 236 547 in 2011
  • Yoghurt – 376 158 in 2012, compared to 218 676 in 2011

During a 2014 SDB graduation ceremony for trainee farmers it was announced by the Minister of Agriculture, Moses Vilakati, that the parastatal was engaging financial and insurance institutions for the creation of a sustainable funding mechanism and a specifically tailored insurance product, respectively. He said that based on the understanding that for a smooth business operation there must be adequate finance, the Board was actively seeking to ensure that industry stakeholders benefited from efficient access to this resource.

Minister Vilakati commended the Board for the dedication with which it pursued its statutory mandate of developing the dairy industry in the country. To the graduate farmers he described the SDB training programmes as one of the fundamental initiatives in establishing and improving the efficiency of a dairy enterprise, saying that the risk-mitigation for a dairy enterprise involved acquiring knowledge and skills to improve the viability of the business. Minister Vilakati declared that the Board was making a contribution towards the empowerment of men and women to become actively involved at critical levels of the dairy value-chain in the country, and that through the training it offered, farmers had been capacitated on entrepreneurship.
 
This, he said, in reference to the kingdom’s ongoing reliance on importing milk and dairy products to meet domestic consumption requirements, will ensure that as local businesses grow, so will the magnitude of value-addition to reach self-sufficiency and ultimately, export. Regarding the SDB’s vision and strategy that seek to unite dairy industry stakeholders in increasing production, processing, marketing and consumption, Minister Vilakati said that in order to achieve this vision, the industry must be competitive and responsible, as stakeholders need confidence in each other’s will and ability to invest and produce what the market requires. He concluded with the assurance that the industry has the potential to be successful in terms of efficiency, product quality and added value.

Poultry/Pork
Maintaining national self-sufficiency is a primary aim of the Agriculture Ministry’s Poultry Production Section: its mission is to provide a quality extension service to communities, farmers and other stakeholders through delivering research-based information via workshops and on-site imparting of skills and knowledge. Broiler and egg production are among the largest animal production industries in the country and the primary source of income for smallholder farmers. Indigenous chicken production is gaining popularity and Ministry propagation units avail farmers with breeding stock. The pork industry is supported by a quarantine station and a breeding centre: 15 579 pigs were processed commercially during 2013/14, with an estimated carcass value of E19.7-million.

Cotton
Mid-June at Big Bend saw Minister Vilakati officially launch the year’s cotton-ginning season with the declaration that cotton sales for 2014/15 are expected to reach E16-million as the result of a significant increase in production: the figure for 2013/14 was E13-million from 2 485 tonnes, a far cry from the E1.6-million of 2008 when just 394 tonnes were produced. The Agriculture Minister pledged government’s continuing, major role in supporting cotton farmers: recounting the initiatives and interventions of recent years he cited the E8.5-million spent on refurbishing the ginnery, the establishment of a ‘revolving fund’ whereby farmers are able to purchase inputs on credit and the establishment of the Cotton Board to assist growers in attaining the level of technical expertise required for optimum cotton production. During 2014 government spent E1-million on repairs to the ginnery after part of it was destroyed by fire.

Minister Vilakati emphasised at the season launch that the ginnery provides a strategic market for all cotton produced locally, as well as from the cotton-growing areas of neighbouring countries. He said that it offers an opportunity for cotton value-addition which culminates in job creation at the ginnery and for cotton end-product users such as spinners and oil producers: fuzzy seed is also widely used as a good protein source for dairy and other animal-based industries in Swaziland. The Agriculture Minister lamented the fact that the ginnery has a throughput capacity of 25 000 tonnes, but currently was operating at 20 percent of that potential. This, he said, poses a challenge to the Swazi nation, especially cotton growers, to utilise the land lying idle in order to increase production, create employment opportunities and improve lives.

With cotton a major cash crop for farmers in the dry Middleveld and Lowveld areas of Swaziland – and thus a direct and indirect source of livelihood for more than 18 000 Swazis – Minister Vilakati said that for cotton producers in these areas, Vision 2022 would be achieved if they utilised every available resource to maximise production. The latter would contribute to an increase in the price of cotton, he pointed out, and thus increase household income. The Minister concluded his address by stating that all things considered, the sustainability and profitability of the ginnery lies with Swaziland’s cotton producers.