Dairy farmers countrywide oppose proposed regulations

An African woman milking. Farmers have opposed the proposed regulations. (File, Standard)
Dairy farmers across the country have reacted angrily to draft industry regulations, which they say are favourable to big corporates, while disenfranchising small farmers.

In Central, small-scale farmers said the regulations were calculated at locking out hawkers who help in pricing, while in North Rift, farmers called for a thorough public participation before ink is put to paper.

Karanja Mwangi of Kirere village said Murang’a milk hawkers will suffer, as they will be locked out of business they have perfected in the last two decades.

“It is unfair for the government to allow the board to introduce draconian regulations that will impact the farmers negatively,” said Karanja.

In Nyeri County, Timothy Kinuthia said the laws were colonial and an attempt to destroy the only sector that farmers rely on for daily sustenance.

“We support the need for high standards of health and quality of the milk produced, but blaming farmers for aflatoxin levels, which they have no control over, is unrealistic,” Kinuthia said.

In Kirinyaga, dairy farmers told the government to go slow on the regulations. Kirinyaga Dairy Cooperative Union, through its chairman Julius Munge, threatened a court action if the regulations sail through.

In Ainamoi, however, some farmers welcomed the proposalsas a starting point for a wider discussion on the sector, but said much more needs to be done.

“Having a structured value chain shall ensure only licensed dealers who adhere to the law obtain milk from farmers, unlike today when the market is full of middlemen, each slashing a percentage of what would have been a farmer’s profit,” said Kiptoo.

Daniel Kipkemoi, a farmer from Londiani in Kericho County, welcomed the regulations, citing the section seeking to regulate importation of cheap milk from neighbouring countries.

“Kenyan farmers have been suffering as a result of low prices, as some processors obtain cheap raw milk from Uganda and sell it to the local market at the expense of our own milk. The regulations should ensure importation is only allowed when there is a shortage,” said Kipkemoi.

James Maina, a milk vendor in Molo town, pointed out that the mandatory registration of milk dealers will help avert challenges, such as adulteration that exposes consumers to health hazards.

According to Njuguna Gicamu, a farmer in Kuresoi, Nakuru County, farmers should be at liberty to sell their produce directly or through organised groups, whichever is favourable to them.

In Nandi, Gilbert Kosgei said it is all a scheme against small farmers.

“Most sections in the proposals will lock out small-scale producers in the dairy industry. Farmers who already lack good market for their produce cannot afford the new levies proposed along the milk value chain,” said Kosgei.

Phillip Bitok from Uasin Gishu County said a rigorous public participation drive will enable farmers and players in the industry to give their views on the proposals and encourage investment in the sector.

“Some of the proposals are ideal in checking the quality standards of the produce and protecting the health of consumers. Other sections, including new levies in the value chain, will frustrate farmers, hence the need for public participation,” said Bitok.

Kipkorir Menjo, a director with Kenya Farmers Association (KFA), said the draft went “overboard” in so far as they set big processors against the small-scale producers.

“The proposed dairy industry regulations are only good for big firms. Fees on milk outlets, including milk banks and bars, will lock out small-scale farmers. The proposals are dangerous and we urge MPs to reject them when they are tabled in Parliament,” said Menjo.

An expert in the dairy sector, who did not wish to be named, said no market survey was carried out prior to drafting the recommendations of the new regulations.

“Milk consumers have all along been consuming fresh produce. What informs the need for pasteurised milk now? Small-scale farmers do not fit in any of the proposed licence classes,” said the expert.

He said labelling produce and giving lot and batch numbers can only be achieved by milk processors, locking out small-scale producers.

[Boniface Gikandi, Lydiah Nyawira, Munene Kamau, Kennedy Gachuhi and Titus Too]

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