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Powder milk stocks to ease shortage

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 15 – As the milk shortage continues to bite, processors have been asked by the Kenya Dairy Board to liaise with New Kenya Co-operative Creameries Limited on the procurement of available powder milk reserves, as one of the short term measures.

However, New KCC Managing Director Kipkirui Lang’at said their powder milk stock is heavily exhausted, and could only last until the end of next month.

“Currently, we are the only ones who have facilities to do dry milk powder, and have been able to dry substantial quantities, which have been depleted because of this shortage. That powder is going to contribute to the remaining weeks up to mid April and probably the end of April,” he said.

Possibilities of importing milk have been sidelined, as the situation is being assessed on the ground, despite the fact that processors are only processing 20 percent of the milk being produced.

Other steps to be taken moving forward include ensuring farmers in areas with pasture shortage get substantial hay supply, enhancing long life products and establishing strategic reserves for milk and milk products.

Kenya Dairy Processors convened in Nairobi on Wednesday to update journalists on the deepening milk situation that has seen milk prices jump by Sh3 to Sh5 in most outlets across the country.

Increased demand in the country and region, erratic weather patterns and export growth of dairy products are a few factors that have led to an over 50 percent drop in milk production since January.

Kenya Dairy Board (KBD) Managing Director Machira Gichohi said the shortfall is estimated at six million litres for January 2012 (representing 13 percent) and 11 million for February (representing 33 percent).

The war in Somalia has seen demand rise significantly in North Eastern Province as illegal imports and low quality dairy products into the country have been cut off.

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Counterfeit milk products would often find their way through the country’s porous borders in the north prior to the war. However the recent shortage has also caused an abnormally high demand in the region.

This, the KDB MD said has in turn affected milk supply in the local commercial market, with some of the milk crossing the Somalia border as suppliers try to take advantage of the market in the recovering nation.

“In terms of the high demand we’ve seen in the North Eastern Province, we have a feeling that some of that milk is being exported to Somalia because some normalcy is coming there and the people there still require milk,” Gichohi said.

Dairy exports grew to Sh766 million for 2011, in an upward trend that began in 2009, while the total volume of milk collected in December last year was 45 million litres.

Just last year, Gichohi disclosed that the Board would embark on an aggressive marketing campaign that will help them export local dairy products to more countries especially in West Africa and the Middle East.

Consequently, a marketing mission was dispatched to the Middle East and another to South Sudan.

The government also planned to exploit the inroads made by national carrier Kenya Airways in West Africa to try and capture that market.

“Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia usually import a lot of milk products from Europe but we want to follow Kenya Airways and ensure that we sell our products in all the destinations they operate,” the MD said of the KBD’s strategy last year.

Farmers have found it difficult to meet the demand that has tripled for some in the space of one month.

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“The cost of producing milk is prohibitive, but demand far outstrips supply. Our usual monthly production is 1000 litres a month now it’s at 3000 litres,” Eden Farms Director Douglas Kanja told Capital News.

Kanja, whose dairy farm in Kimende supplies Brookside Dairy, said he’s also been running short of grazing fodder for his 100 cows.

Hawkers have proven to be an attractive option for farmers who are desperate to sell their milk off that could easily go for Sh40 to Sh50 per litre for unprocessed milk.

Brookside, which is the biggest processor in the country, churning out 9.3 million litres a month, is planning to double its capacity with a milk powder plant set to be commissioned later this year.

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