Ethiopia: Got Milk?

Weeks following the Easter Holiday have been uncomfortable for consumers of milk. Although supply has never met demand, the current milk shortages have been frustrating consumers and producers who anticipated the season would bring higher demand.

Half a litre of pasteurised milk that sold for 14 Br to 15 Br is now selling for as high as 18 Br. This is if consumers can find it at their local retailer or supermarket at all.

The exasperating factor has been the rising price of chaff, Furushka, which is fed to dairy cows. Even in seasons not as dry as this one, when there is less pasture available for grazing, cows need to consume chaff made of wheat, rice or sorghum to produce milk. The lack of animal feed, combined with local Ethiopian breeds of cows that produce much less than foreign cows, has meant a deep decline in milk production.

This is a compounding factor on top of Ethiopia's already low milk production capacity. Neighbouring Kenya, despite a lower cattle population than Ethiopia of around seven million cows compared to 11.6 million here, produces 22pc more milk by volume.

Industry insiders say that the government has ignored the milk market for too long and needs to intervene to bring the price of chaff down as well as facilitate its supply.

"I know the government has a lot on its hands at the moment but something needs to be done about the escalating price of animal feed," said a local smallholder cattle farmer.

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