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Kenya Dairy Board answers critics

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 25 – The Kenya Dairy Board has defended itself over allegations of incompetence in addressing the current milk glut in the market.

Chairman Martha Mulwa in fact attributed the oversupply to the Board’s positive measures of encouraging more Kenyans to join the dairy industry.

“When something is overproduced, it means that something good on the ground is happening. We are now seeing the fruits of our labour and so we think we have done a very good job,” she said.

The board and the management of the New Kenya Cooperative Creameries have come under heavy criticism in the last couple of weeks for failing to plan effectively for the surplus which has seen farmers pour thousands of litres of milk for lack of markets.

The onset of rains late last year made fodder available for the cattle and led to a surge in production to four billion litres in 2009 from 3.2 billion in 2008 and in the amount of milk delivered to the formal sector.  Processors are now reporting a near 50 percent rise in daily intakes to 1.7 million litres compared to the 1.1 million they received in September.

This is against a capacity of 2.9 million litres per day, most of which is for processing fresh pasteurized milk which has a constant market size and a short life span.

In their defense however, Mrs Mulwa said although they were still collating figures to determine how many litres of milk went to waste, the volumes were not as much as had been reported.

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“It may have happened in a week or two but after that they (processors) picked up the collection so not too much went to waste,” she maintained.

The chairman was however quick to add that various interventions had been put in place to contain the crisis and ensure that farmers are not discouraged to produce.

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“They know that there’s good money and I know that they will not give up because this is a temporary situation that is being overcome,” she added.

The board is now banking on the setting up of a strategic milk reserve which will mop up the excess milk in the market. As part of the short term measures, the government has pledged to provide Sh300 million to buy the surplus milk that is being held by processors.

An additional grant should also be provided in May to deal with the overproduction that is expected in the next two months with the onset of the long rains.

During the opening of the Fourth Session of the 10th Parliament, President Mwai Kibaki assented to the request to incorporate milk and related products into the National Food Strategic Reserve, a move that the Board lauded as one which would increase uptake of excess produce.

At a press briefing, Managing Director Machira Gichohi expressed confidence that proposed measures would help address the issue both in the short and long term.

“We are foreseeing a situation where in the months of April, May and June the volumes will really go up. We have proposed to the government that there should be another intervention. In the meantime however, the processors are already looking at the export markets to ensure that some of those stocks are offloaded to those markets,” Mr Gichohi said.

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The quantity of milk and related products exported last year dropped to five million kilograms from 10.9 million kilos in 2008 due to the drought experienced in the market and resulted in the cancellation contracts for many firms that could not service them.

However, various processors such as the New KCC are said to be investing in equipment that should process the commodity into powdered milk and other dairy products such as cheese, ice creams and butter.


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