Sometimes last year, it was rumoured that the Kenyan dairy sector players was considering re-introducing free milk to school going children. The last this was seen was in the 1990s under the Moi regime which had introduced the practice in 1979 with much aplomb to cater for excess capacity of milk production and ensure healthy feeding among primary school kids,
but as is often the case with Government, there is prone to abuse from the people entrusted with implementation. The programme started with an estimated 44 million litres distributed but due to drought, production inefficiencies, corrupt officials and reduced milk production, supply was at around 3 million litres by the time the programme ceased.
Other reasons cited were lack of funds to spur milk production, closure or lack of maintenance at dairy plants, non-payment of distributors.
In the last 18 years though, the Kenya dairy sector has grown to one of the best examples of agri-business in the continent. In fact, neighbouring countries are often sending delegations of farmers and Agriculture ministry officials to visit dairy milk processors, farmers and related services. Rwanda for example even sought Government of Kenya assistance and local milk processors Brookside Milk to help train dairy farmers in Rwanda.
This has meant that milk production in Kenya is at optimal levels but there are still issues which need to be addressed;
- Expensive feeds and supplements – due to the high cost of producing commercial feeds, it is quite expensive for any dairy farmer to largely depend on the same. Regular fresh fodder is also an issue depending on which parts of the country you’re in.
- Unpredictable weather patterns– this mean less fresh feeds and unforeseen shortages. Due to deforestation and poor farming practices, it requires proper planning for emergencies and contigent measures.
- Poor storage facilities – most farmers are not equipped with proper storage facilities thus some milk usually goes to waste on production. This happens a lot during the rains when milk production’s at its peak. We have witnessed this in parts of Central Kenya and other high potential areas.
- Poor infrastructure – this relates to roads meant to access dairy farms. Though the Government has been trumpeting its achievements on roads maintenance and development, most of the high yielding areas are still under-served by proper roads -either graded or otherwise.
- Delayed payment – this irks many a farmer that upon delivery, payments are usually delayed. This is the reason behind most farmers opting to hawk their milk. Major milk processing companies are the main culprits though this is also dependent on how aggressive your co-operative, self-help group or local delivery centre is on getting it done.
- Disease and quarantine – due to changing weather patterns, the incidence of disease is quite high now and depending on how soon you’re able to diagnose this, it can mean the end of your beloved stock of cattle.
- Diminished veterinary services– this means that securing a vet’s service can be quite expensive unlike past practices where Government officials did rounds in the farms. This also applies to A.I services which have also become quite pricey.