Giant milk processor Brookside has announced a Sh3 per litre price increase to dairy farmers in a bid to build up stocks ahead of the opening at year end of a transformatory dry milk plant designed balance milk supply through seasonal cycles. The plant is poised to increase Brookside's daily milk production four fold, to 2.4 m kgs, making it the largest processor in the region.
The move by the processor, which controls 45 per cent of the national milk market, has been welcomed by the more than 150,000 farmers who are in a milk supply contract with the company who are also getting free training from the company on better animal husbandry and feed preservation as a means of ensuring increased production of milk. “"We are seeking to improve the take-home package of our farmers to enable them invest in storage of hay and silage, which will assure them of continuous supply of milk even during the dry season," said John Gethi, the General Manager in charge of milk procurement and extension services at Brookside.
The plant hopes to wipe the painful memories of yester seasons where tonnes of milk were poured due to glut only for an acute shortage to strike a few months later pushing milk prices to unprecedented 40 percent levels. While Kenyan milk production grew by 150% between 2002 and 2011, with an almost fourfold increase in deliveries to milk processors, with the growth being attributed to ‘sound policy and regulatory guidelines’, lack of proper storage facilities still leads to considerable milk production going to waste, while considerable seasonal price variations occur.
“Milk is one of the most volatile commodities ever in terms of pricing and availability. It is mostly tied to performance of the weather since farmers rely on fodder to feed livestock. Prolonged dry spells would therefore mean scarcity of fodder which then translates into low milk production. This triggers a series of events which end up in expensive and un affordable milk in the store's shelves,” says Mwangangi Lutha an agronomist.
The glut versus shortage debacle has become so grave that in a recent dairy conference President Kibak I made a passionate appeal to the Eastern and Southern African Dairy Association members to quickly devise simple technologies that could boost milk conservation at farm levels during seasons of plenty and those that could convert excess milk to powder for use during dry seasons “and save our people the unbearable pain of pouring such a precious commodity.”
Most recently, proposals were tabled in July 2012 as part of the restructuring of the Kenya Dairy Board for the creation of ‘a strategic milk reserve to cushion against fluctuations in production’. Under the proposals, the New Kenya Co-operative Creameries would be the custodian of this strategic reserve of milk and milk products.
Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter
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