By Wainaina Ndug'u Nyeri County
Dairy co-operatives are now the most lucrative societies in Central Province after overtaking coffee.
According to the annual report by the Central Provincial Co-operative Officer (PCO), gross proceeds handled by dairy co-operatives amounted to Sh5.8 billion last year a rise of almost Sh2 billion from the Sh3.9 billion in 2010.
The money paid to farmers by the dairy co-operatives last year totalled Sh4.3 billion up from Sh3.4 billion in 2010.
In comparison, coffee sale proceeds handled by coffee co-operatives in the region stood at Sh4.3 billion, a marginal decline from the Sh4.4 billion in 2010. Coffee co-operatives paid farmers Sh3.6 billion compared to Sh3.7 billion the previous year.
PCO Stephen Mwenje says earnings by small-scale dairy farmers in the province is substantially more than what is captured by the co-operative figures because a big number marketed their milk directly to processors and individual dealers.
Gross sales from rice co-operatives was Sh195 million a rise from Sh119 million in 2010 while pyrethrum gross sales totalled Sh229 million, a drop from Sh243 million the previous year.
The report says the number of co-operative societies members in Central Kenya increased by 150,000 last year though the number of societies decreased from 1,008 in 2010 to 960.
There are over 1.2 million co-operative movement members in the province now compared to 1.06 million in 2010.
In the same period, co-operative societies share capital in the province decreased to Sh11.4 billion in 2011 compared to 12.6 billion the previous year due to classification of shares into deposits in most societies running front office services as required by new regulation of the Sacco Regulatory Authority.
The turnover of co-operatives in the province, however, shows a massive increase to Sh20.6 billion compared to Sh14.7 billion the previous year. The deposits from members and non-members last year totalled Sh62.5 billion compared to Sh54.2 billion the previous year, says Mwenje in the report.
Mwenje says co-operatives in the province faced a variety of challenges, principal among them the theft of coffee parchment in factories, which has weakened the financial muscle of coffee co-operatives.