14 March 2017

Kenya: Dry Spell Poses Tough Challenge to Dairy Farmers

The long-awaited rains are expected to provide relief to dairy farmers who have faced an acute shortage of pasture.

The result has been reduction in milk production and high prices for consumers.

Coupled with other factors such as poor animal breeds, high cost of feeds and treatment, the multi-billion shilling dairy industry now faces a bleak future with experts warning that Kenya could end up being a net importer of milk by 2019.

According to a study by the Kenya Agricultural Value Chain Entreprises (Kaves), a project funded by USAID, the seasonal variation in production has left policymakers, processors and farmers entangled in a surplus and deficit web.

Ms Joyce Mutua, the technical director in charge of dairy production at Kaves, says availability and quality of animal feeds is critical to sustainable dairy production.

"Feeds, especially fodder, which account for 70 per cent of production costs have been the main constraint. Other feed supplements constitute the other 30 per cent," said Ms Mutua.

"Shortage causes poor animal body condition, low milk production, low fertility and vulnerability to diseases. This denies smallholder farmers the much-needed income in milk and calf sales, further perpetuating poverty."

Kenyan dairy plants have an estimated installed processing capacity of 3.5 million litres daily but can only produce 1.5 million litres, according to the Kenya Dairy Processors Association report, 2015.

Only 30 per cent of this is long-life milk products making the industry unable to cope with huge volumes delivered during flush seasons.

Conversely, low volumes of milk realised during dry spells are often insufficient to meet demand, thus limiting expansion in processing infrastructure.

Consequently, short-term decisions are made to mitigate the two contrasting extremes at the expense of long-term strategies that stabilise and increase milk production for sustained growth.


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