THE Uasin Gishu county assembly has passed a motion to legalise milk hawking.
This has caused a furore in the county and nationally.
Last month, Ng’enyilel Ward member of county assembly David Sing’oei, who is also the assembly’s chief whip, sponsored the motion which was unanimously passed by the MCAs.
Sing’oei argued that the motion is aimed at coming up with a legal framework that will recognise milk hawking as a business and protect the interests of the consumer.
However, the Kenya Dairy Farmers Federation has opposed the move, terming it a process to scuttle the milestones made in the dairy sector.
“This is ironical because other regions are striving to process their milk but Uasin Gishu is thinking of taking dairy farmers many years backwards,” KDFF CEO David Bett said.
Bett argued that farmers, through their producer organisations, have invested heavily in milk collection, bulking and marketing infrastructure to ensure quality milk reaches the consumers or processors.
He said hawkers lack the facilities to ensure the quality and safety of hawked milk, which might lead to fatalities if not carefully handled.
Late last month, over 30 people were hospitalised in Kitale after consuming contaminated milk.
“Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reports that unpasteurised milk is 150 times more likely to cause food borne illness and results in 13 times more hospitalisations than illness involving pasteurised dairy products,” KDFF chairman Richard Tuwei explained.
“In the event that the hawked milk is procured from an animal suffering from anthrax or other diseases that are transmitted through milk, in the absence of safety mechanisms offered by milk processing, is the county ready to be held responsible for any eventuality resulting in deaths of consumers?” Bett asked.
According to the federation, farmers should own the entire value chain to reap maximum benefits instead of going through middlemen or hawkers who will exploit them.
“The milk market will be crowded by hawkers hence sending the milk prices spiralling down leading to poor returns to the dairy farmers. They should encourage hawkers to buy milk from licensed milk producer organisations where farmers take their milk,” Bett added.
Sing’oei said over 50 per cent of the milk in Kenya is being hawked and legalisation it will ensure that the vendors adhere to the quality and hygienic measures, and will do away with milk adulteration.
“Monopoly in the dairy sector dictates prices hence most of the farmers have decided to hawk their milk. A litre of hawked milk goes for Sh50-60 as opposed to Sh30 being offered by KCC and Brookside. That is why hawking is rampant because farmers are looking for an extra shilling,” he said.
Deputy governor Daniel Chemno said the assembly will have to consider amendments in the bill to protect the public good.
“At the moment the governor has not yet signed it and the executive will have to weigh in on the matter,” Chemno said.
He said World Health Organisation standards require the testing of milk to ensure that they are fit for human consumption.
“We are really focusing on improving the dairy sector through various modern methods and be at par with other regions which have made strides in the milk sector,” he added.
John Kiplimo from Kapseret hawks about 300 litres of milk in Eldoret town daily.
“What we do is to only ensure that the containers that we use in transporting them are very clean. This is the business that puts bread on my table,” he said.
Elizabeth Tanui from Kipkaren River said she prefers selling the milk to middlemen since it fetches more money than Brookside or KCC.
“Hawkers pay us Sh45-50 per litre of milk and if we take to other processors, they pay as low as Sh35,” she said.