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Frustration as millions of litres of milk go to waste over lack of market, storage

Milk worth millions is going to waste in the North Rift region due to a lack of market and storage facilities.

The quantity going to waste is expected to rise beyond the 290 million litres recorded last year across the country as dairy farmers grapple with market challenges.

The tribulations facing dairy farmers have been complicated by delays by the New Kenya Cooperative Creameries (New KCC) to pay them for the last four months, amounting to millions and the move by private processors to cut the intake by more than half owing to lack of capacity for the excess produce.

Dairy farmers affiliated with the Kenya Dairy Farmer Federation (KDFF) on Friday said thousands of litres of milk were going to waste due to a lack of storage facilities, as private processors have lowered the farm gate prices to below Sh30 a litre as they grapple with the challenges of excess production.

“Most milk cooperative societies face collapse due to delayed payments by the New KCC and exploitation by private milk processers who are offering as low as Sh20 per litre at farm gate level contrary to agreement entered with the Kenya Dairy Board and Ministry of Agriculture of Sh33 per litre,” said Stanley Ngombe, KDFF chairperson.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua announced the release of Sh600 million last week to New KCC to pay dairy farmers for milk deliveries.

“I know the problem of delayed payments by New KCC for milk deliveries but I want to tell you that we have released Sh600 million to pay farmers,” said the DP last week while in Eldoret.

Nation spot check

A survey by Nation.Africa indicated that the money is yet to be wired into the farmers’ accounts as they continue to cope with the challenges of maintaining their dairy animals.

“It is now three days and there is no money in our accounts. The government should honour its pledge and release the funds to New KCC to enable it to pay us,” said James Songok from Kerita, Uasin Gishu County.

The New KCC is purchasing a litre of milk at Sh50, as compared to Sh42 offered, but it has not paid dairy farmers for the past four months.

Data from an economic survey indicated that the quantity of wasted milk in 2023 was 290 million litres, translating to income loss to dairy farmers of Sh14.7 billion.

“Dairy cooperative societies are experiencing heavy losses due to milk spoilage with private processors reducing prices and cutting down the intake by half causing untold frustration to farmers,” said Mr Ngombe.

The DP has in the past disclosed plans to introduce reforms to modernize the New KCC) factories and expand its market share to build capacity for dairy farmers.

Among the strategies is for the giant milk processors to acquire new markets through the school feeding programmes sponsored by the national and county governments.

According to the DP, the reforms will empower dairy farmers to increase milk productivity and earn better returns by pushing the cost of milk to Sh60 per litre at the farm gate level.

“Our aim is to turn-around the company to profitability by doubling the processed milk to over three million litres per for higher returns to the farmer,” said the DP when he toured the New KCC milk processing plant in Dandora, Nairobi early this year.

According to interviewed dairy farmers, the cost of animal feed remains the most expensive input in dairy production, accounting for 60 per cent of the total cost and affecting constant milk production.

“Our training is homegrown fodder silage making and other cheaper protein sources. Feed conversation is critical in managing seasonality of weather patterns,’ said Jonah Kemboi from Saos, Nandi County.

The state milk processor is partnering with Uasin Gishu County to support cooperatives to enhance production and school milk programmes.

Governor Jonathan Bii said the devolved unit was keen to revive cooperative societies to improve milk production.

“We are working on a program to coordinate key value chains to enhance productivity and increase household incomes and create employment especially among the youth,” said Mr Bii.

According to data from the county Department of Agriculture and Livestock, the current annual production stands at 220 million litres from 340,000 herds of livestock.

 

bbii@ke.nationmedia.com

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