NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 11 – Brookside Dairy has registered an increase in the number of farmers enrolling for the company\’s farmer programme following the introduction of new producer milk prices at the beginning of this month.
An additional 3,000 farmers from around the country have applied to join the programme to enjoy the new Sh30 per kilogramme prices.
The company has also reported an increase in milk intake with an additional 125,000 litres received in the first week of the campaign.
Besides the additional 3,000 farmers, Brookside Dairy already had 125,000 farmers on contract. The farmers are distributed around 150 cooperative societies and self-help groups around the country.
Under the new prices, farmers with between 1-500 kilos of milk are now being Sh25 per kilo, while those with between 501 kilos to 1000 kilos are now earning Sh26 per kilo. Those with more than 1,000 kilos will earn Sh27 per kilo.
As an additional incentive, Brookside Dairy is paying Sh3 as transport bonus for every kilo of milk delivered to the company\’s milk collection centres around the country. This means that the maximum amount payable under this new initiative is a whopping Sh30/kg.
Brookside Dairy General Manager in charge of Milk Procurement and Extension Services John Gethi said the increased prices are meant to motivate farmers to increase milk production through better animal feeding.
He said farmers can use the extra revenue to convert fodder in the fields into conserved product to feed their animals during the dry season, thus ensuring consistent milk production plus better and consistent raw milk prices.
"Brookside Dairy is keen to see a situation where farmers produce milk consistently throughout the year, regardless of the season," he added.
Farmers already supplying milk to Brookside Dairy have welcomed the new prices, describing them as a positive move that will help empower the farmer, and spur further growth in the industry in the long run.
Anthony Njane, Chairman of the 2,000 member strong Ndumberi Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society in Kiambu said farmers will now be in a better position to meet their financial obligations as a result of the new prices.
Mr Njane pointed out that the rising costs of both animal feeds and farm inputs continued to heavily impact on the overall production of milk in the country, but expressed optimism that with the new prices, farmers will now be empowered to obtain the inputs for the benefit of their dairy businesses.
He foresaw a dramatic increase in the national milk production in future if farmers continue to receive the good prices, and urged processors and the government to intensify investment in the sector to be able to take in all the milk produced by the farmers, especially during the flush season.
Similar comments were expressed by Patrick Mwaniki Matia, a dairy farmer in Kithimu, Embu who said the new prices would now free farmers to even apply for more loans to develop their dairy businesses since their income bracket had expanded.
Mr Matia who is currently supplying over 100 kilos daily said the new prices were a sign of the commitment that Brookside Dairy has in growing the sector by empowering the farmer to earn more, expand his dairy business and improve his living standards.
The increased prices have also helped discourage more farmers from selling their milk to hawkers as they now prefer to deliver it to Brookside Dairy and enjoy both the high prices, plus the other benefits that come with the Brookside Farmers\’ program.
Due to the importance of the farmer in the milk production process, a substantial part of Brookside Dairy\’s operations are geared towards empowering farmers towards attaining optimum milk production in their farms.
Mr Gethi said the company\’s model is designed to encourage farmers to embrace farming as a serious business, not a part-time activity, by adopting modern farming techniques so that they may increase their yield and thus enjoy the full benefits of the dairy farming through better dairy management.
As market leaders, Brookside Dairy appreciates its role in helping bring stability and sustainability in the industry. As a result of the excess milk earlier in the year, new markets have been found in West & Central Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Mr Gethi said with the incentives, Brookside Dairy is confident farmers will rise to the challenge for the benefit of Kenya\’s dairy export market and Kenya as a whole. He said Kenya cannot be taken seriously as a regional milk production giant if it continues to constantly cancel export orders due to inadequate raw milk supply.
"This is the reason we are asking farmers to commit to uninterrupted supply so that there is consistency in the export markets as well", said Mr Gethi.
Maximise on this opportunity
He said Brookside Dairy has spent over Sh10 million in 2010 to train more than 20,000 farmers on modern farming methods. The company has also intensified its dairy training courses for the final quarter of the year to help entrench these modern practices within the management of Kenyan dairy farmers.
"The climax of these trainings is the biennial Brookside Livestock Breeders Show and Sale where more than 30,000 farmers and other stakeholders in the livestock sector from the region attend for educative purposes. This is scheduled for 2011," Mr Gethi explained.
One of the key topics taught during these trainings is the importance of feed conservation and how to prepare silage to ensure farmers have adequate pasture for their livestock even during drought. Mr Gethi said many farms today have standing hay/grass and maize following the good rains enjoyed for most of the year and said consistent feeding would guarantee the needed quantities to sustain consistent milk production.
Investment in expanded facilities
To further cushion the industry from these weather vagaries, the company has embarked on the construction of a powder plant at a cost of $20 Million (approximately Sh1.6 billion) with a capacity for over 200,000 litres daily which will boost Brookside Dairy\’s processing capacity and strengthen the company\’s market leadership position.
Brookside Dairy recently installed new milk processing facilities at its second plant in Nairobi\’s Industrial area increasing the company\’s present processing capacity by an additional 250,000.
These investments will ensure that the company is able to absorb more milk from its contracted farmers and the other new farmers that are unable to secure a market for their product during El Nino periods of time when milk production soars.
The Brookside farmer extension program has been credited as one of the initiatives that have contributed towards the recent revival and resurgence of the local dairy sector that has seen more Kenyans, including the youth reassess their views about dairy farming as a serious and viable economic activity.
Mr Gethi said that they had every confidence that the new prices will help encourage farmers to take dairy farming as a serious business and to re-invest in it, while at the same time attracting more people, particularly the youth to invest in the sector.
He said this has the potential to increase the national milk production over time, and assured farmers that Brookside Dairy was ready to take in all their milk.