Agriculture, Economy

Let Us Consider Homegrown Solutions to Kenya’s Perennial Milk Shortage

There is an acute milk short­age in Kenya. This is accord­ing to the Kenya Dairy Board. We are expe­ri­enc­ing a deficit of about 20 mil­lion liters every month against our month­ly con­sump­tion of 74 mil­lion liters. Accord­ing­ly, milk intake by major proces­sors has dropped by 27 per­cent because of the short­age in pro­duc­tion. Inevitably such short­age in local pro­duc­tion is lead­ing to height­ened impor­ta­tion of milk and milk prod­ucts from Ugan­da, Rwan­da, Turkey, and oth­er countries.

Kenyans may not have felt the full weight of milk scarci­ty because milk proces­sors have pri­or­i­tized pro­duc­tion of milk at the expense of high-val­ue milk prod­ucts like but­ter and ghee. In recent months, there has bare­ly been any Kenyan but­ter in our super­mar­kets. While impor­ta­tion helps in fill­ing the local dairy prod­ucts gap, it also bleeds jobs from Kenya to the export­ing coun­tries and weak­ens our econ­o­my through poten­tial for­eign exchange losses.

The gov­ern­ment has blamed this milk scarci­ty on the pro­longed droughts. Last year, Kenya wit­nessed a con­sec­u­tive fifth rain fail­ure, which affect­ed agri­cul­tur­al pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. In the first quar­ter of this year, milk deliv­ery from farm­ers dropped by 50 per cent. Nonethe­less, drought is pre­dictable and can no longer be an excuse for decreased productivity.

Mean­while, South Africa is also under­go­ing a dairy sec­tor cri­sis. Unlike Kenya, their cri­sis large­ly stems from the country’s elec­tric­i­ty cri­sis. Wide­spread elec­tric­i­ty rationing in South Africa has had adverse effects on milk pro­cess­ing and cold stor­age facilities.

In Tunisia, milk price is capped despite ris­ing pro­duc­tion costs. This has pushed some farm­ers to sell most of their dairy cows which has fur­ther exac­er­bat­ed the milk crisis.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Kenya’s milk scarci­ty is lead­ing to unscrupu­lous, dan­ger­ous behav­ior from some busi­ness entities.

The Direc­torate of Crim­i­nal Inves­ti­ga­tions (DCI) recent­ly recov­ered 1,511 bags of pow­dered milk that had been declared unfit for human con­sump­tion in Nairo­bi. If this tox­ic milk had made it to our shops and super­mar­kets, the con­se­quences would have been fatal. Back in 2008, more than six thou­sands Chi­nese babies fell ill and sev­er­al died after they con­sumed con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed milk for­mu­la. Kenya can­not afford to slide down this path because of con­sumer des­per­a­tion for milk products.

The solu­tion to our milk cri­sis can be found in two words – increased pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. This is not about increas­ing the num­ber of cows but the gen­er­al pro­duc­tion effi­cien­cy of our exist­ing cows. This is where we must hon­or our experts and allow them to guide us to prosperity.

Cur­rent­ly, Kenya’s dairy farm­ing is large­ly rain-fed. This means that water deter­mines avail­abil­i­ty of fod­der not the rains. We must urgent­ly shift our minds from the word rain to water con­ser­va­tion so that when it rains, we exploit water con­ser­va­tion so that we irri­gate fod­der in all seasons.

Fur­ther to this, I sug­gest that the new­ly con­sti­tut­ed Kenya Cli­mate Change Coun­cil should work close­ly with rel­e­vant Gov­ern­ment Min­istries to over­see the mas­sive roll­out of afford­able high qual­i­ty cli­mate resilient for­age that will pro­vide reli­able cumu­la­tive nation­al pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. Small scale dairy coop­er­a­tives should be strength­ened in this process.

Sure­ly, Increased milk pro­duc­tiv­i­ty is also depen­dent on low pro­duc­tion costs which have sky­rock­et­ed. A 70 kg bag of dairy meal is cur­rent­ly retail­ing at rough­ly Sh3,400 com­pared to Sh2,500 in August 2022. Con­sid­er­ing that feed and fod­der con­tribute to 55 per cent of milk pro­duc­tion costs, it’s no won­der milk price has been steadi­ly ris­ing. I sug­gest that we be inten­tion­al in review­ing the high levies on ani­mal feeds dur­ing the ongo­ing tax changes.

Final­ly, there is need for more stream­lined and effec­tive milk dis­tri­b­u­tion. Kenya’s infor­mal milk mar­ket accounts for more than 60 per­cent of the total milk pro­duced. With more Gov­ern­ment sup­port and capac­i­ty build­ing, effi­cient dis­tri­b­u­tion will lead to for­tunes for our heart­bro­ken farm­ers. Con­sid­er that when we under pro­duce milk we must import to meet the local demand and when we over pro­duce, we can cre­ate long last­ing milk prod­ucts for the export mar­ket. Think green, act green.

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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