Malawi Milk Producers Association says its members are losing 130 000 litres of milk valued at K27 million daily due to the ongoing strike by truck drivers as they cannot move the commodity to factories for processing.
The strike, which started on Sunday this week, has seen truck drivers halting transportation of goods.
In an interview yesterday, the association’s national director Herbert Chagona said if left unchecked, the situation will have serious repercussions in the whole dairy industry value chain as 121 milk bulking groups are throwing away the commodity.
“The strike by the truck drivers has a far-reaching and disastrous effect on the milk business in the country and the smallholder farmers depending on the dairy sector in Malawi,” he said.
Chagona said that the association, whose 21 000 members depend on milk sales, are in a desperate situation as their product cannot be taken to processors.
The effect of the strike, he said, puts in jeopardy lives of thousands of dairy farmers and their dependants because they have no income as they cannot sell the product.
Chagona said cows need to be milked twice a day to prevent them from becoming sick and dying.
On his part, Shire Highlands Milk Producers Association chairperson Saini Kapito, who is also a dairy farmer, said many people who depend on daily milk sales are suffering.
“We get money on a daily basis, and this strike has severely crippled our financial base,” he said.
Over the years, the association has been lobbying Ministry of Finance to scrap the three percent withholding tax on milk at the bulking group and introduce a cap for milk importers.
In its 2021/22 National Budget proposal, the association argued that milk is the only product subjected to withholding tax among all the agricultural products from subsistence farmers.
The association also asked Treasury to restrict issuance of import permits for milk and milk products, introduce excise tax on all milk powders and milk products of maximum 25 percent from 15 percent and remove milk powder repackaging operations from the Industrial Rebate Scheme.
In a statement on Wednesday, Deputy Minister of Labour Vera Kamtukule asked truck owners to adhere to the K140 000 monthly salary for truck drivers government gazetted effective January 1 2020, which truck owners have not been implementing, leading to the strike.
She asked drivers who are not being paid in line with the minimum wage to report to the ministry for redress in line with the Employment Act of 2000 which provides punitive measures, including a maximum imprisonment of up to 10 years.
Among other things, the truck drivers have been asking government to reduce the cost of express passport from K180 000 to K60 000 effective August 1 2021.
Earlier this year, government agreed to enforce minimum salaries for trans-border drivers at K140 000 per month and K100 000 per month for those operating within the country.
Malawi Milk Producers Association has 21 000 dairy farmers with 68 000 dairy cows.