LACK of Ultra High Temperature (UHT) milk processing plants in the country has led to the influx of imported long-life milk from other African countries.
With UHT technology, milk is subjected to special thermal treatment which destroys germs and preserves vitamins and nutrients without adding chemicals and with the pre-sterilization of the packaging, the milk can last for up to six months.
The Tanzania Dairy Board (TDB) Acting Registrar, who is also the Marketing Service Department Manager, Dr Mayasa Simba, told the 'Daily News' that production of milk in the country is still low, hence importation of long-life milk.
Dr Simba, however, noted that with recent moves by government to zero rate dairy products in the country, the sector is set to increase production. She noted that most of the imported milk, such as the Ultra High Temperature (UHT) is not found in the local market.
Its availability is small and cannot satisfy local demand. Dr Simba estimates that between 25 and 27 million litres of milk are imported yearly. She observed that the same amount is processed locally. This means that if Tanzania needs to take over the window allowing for importation of milk, it needs to double its production and processing capacity to be able to satisfy demand in the country.
She said that one of the TDB's objectives is to encourage more investors in the sector to use UHT technology in processing milk, which lasts for months without refrigeration. The Minster for Livestock Development and Fisheries, Dr David Mathayo David, was quoted in Parliament last year appealing to dairy industries to use UHT technology in processing milk which allows the milk to stay longer.
The Tanzania Dairy Board, which was established in 2010, is currently calling for all stakeholders in the sector to register with the board, a situation that will in turn enable the board to have a database on their number, where they are and how to address their demands.
In its five-year ambitious plan (2013 - 2017), the board plans to increase milk production and processing, marketing and promotion of consumption of milk and dairy products in the country. Dr Simba said that increase in production of milk will only be reached if livestock keepers opt for modern cattle breeds which have a high capacity of producing milk compared to the local breeds.
"We will be using artificial insemination to raise better breeds, currently farmers are using cross breeding methods between local and high breed cattle which takes a lot of time and energy," she explained. She said that Tanzania has a lot of cattle, about 18.6 million, ranking third in Africa after Ethiopia and Sudan.
However, a lot of them are local breeds which have low capacity in milk production compared to the high breeds. The TDB Acting Registrar and Marketing Services Department Manager is optimistic that the current steps taken by the government will benefit consumers, producers and farmers.
"We are currently doing a baseline to see the situation before and after the government move to zero rate milk and its products. However, some people have already reduced prices but most likely we are going to see prices of milk and its products going down from next year," she explained.
From promoting the importance of consuming milk for health purpose TDB expects to see an increase in milk consumption, which is currently at 45 litres per person annually compared to the World Health Organization (WHO), recommended 200 litres per person per year.