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November 20, 2018

Subsidies give foreign farmers edge in market

A dairy cow. /FILE
A dairy cow. /FILE

Kenya played host to the 14th Africa Dairy Conference, which was attended by 600 delegates from 40 countries. Participants from the dairy industry came together to share experiences, knowledge and technologies, as well as exchange strategic industry information.

During the conference, Agriculture CAS Andrew Tuimur told farmers to produce their own animal feeds to cut down the cost of producing a litre of milk by Sh7.

Currently, the cost of producing a litre of milk at farm level is Sh21. This is double the cost of production for dairy farmers in Uganda, which is Sh10.

“We are encouraging dairy farmers in Kenya to conserve fodder and start making their own animal feeds. This will help reduce the cost of production by about Sh14 per litre of milk,” Tuimur said.

Caroline Edmond, the International Dairy Federation director general, said dairy farmers should ensure safety and efficiency to stay ahead of the competition and run competitive dairy operations.

“It is important for dairy farmers to be efficient so that they deliver more quality milk and produce less footprints in the environment. We need safe and more sustainable products to feed the growing population,” she said.

There was also an exhibition at the conference, where different innovations and new farm equipment were showcased, including milk coolers, processors, mechanisation farm tools and livestock vaccines.

CHEESE FIRMS OUTMUSCLED

The Star caught up with exhibitor Sammy Karimi, the manager of Nyeri county-based Raka Cheese Company, who said most local cheese producers are unable to cope with the cut-throat competition mounted by global companies exporting the product to the local market.

He said most of these companies enjoy government support and procure milk from equally subsidised farmers.

“These companies get subsidies throughout the value chain. We are requesting the government, through the Kenya Dairy Board, to support Kenyan farmers and processors so we can also maximise profits,” Karimi said.

“We sell our products at up to Sh1,400, though imported cheese costs less by Sh50 for a particular quantity in the local market.”

He said Raka has a capacity of processing 1,100kg-1,200kg of cheese a day, which is equivalent to 12,000 litres of milk per day.

“But currently due to the cold weather, we are not able to get enough milk from farmers. We are now processing 750kg-800kg of cheese a day, which is equivalent to 8,000 litres per day. We started with a capacity of 200 litres of milk per week in 2001, and we have expanded to where we are today,” Karimi said.

Karimi buys milk from eight established farms in Nyeri and Embu counties at Sh42, and when production is low, he also buys from local dairy cooperatives.

According to Economic Survey 2018, for the last five years, production of cheese has increased by 26.5 per cent from 267.4 metric tonnes in 2013 to 338.3 metric tonnes in 2017.

There was also a seminar for small-scale farmers on good farm management and on how to improve milk production. The conference was organised by the Eastern and Southern Africa Dairy Association, a non-political membership organisation.

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