County’s ambitious milk processing and packaging project is yet to take off, four years after it was initiated.
While the dairy milk project, championed by Governor Mwangi wa Iria, has succeeded in stabilising milk prices locally, the Sh250 million milk processor in Maragua, which was supposed to be the cherry on the cake, is still incomplete.
Since the project started, farmers have been earning Sh35 for a litre of milk against the market price of between Sh28 and Sh33.
Wa Iria, a former managing director at the New Kenya Co-operative Creameries, hoped to replicate his success at the company by establishing the Murang’a County Creameries (MCC), which would help dairy farmers earn more from their milk through value addition.
The county procured 35 milk coolers in 2014, and issued them to dairy cooperatives in Kigumo, Kangema, Kandara and Maragua.
The contract for the supply of the milk processing equipment from China was awarded on September 1, 2014, and delivery was expected in six months.
However, despite the promising start, farmers had to wait three years before the factory equipment could be delivered last year.
The equipment was delivered in February last year, and in an ostentatious fashion during campaigns ahead of the August 8, General Election.
According to the county, the plant can process 20,000 litres of milk per hour. Farmers are required to deliver 150,000 litres per day, while the rest of the milk comes from MCC’s 36 dairy saccos.
The county had promised that the plant would enable farmers to add value to their milk by producing yoghurt, cheese, powdered milk and long and semi-long life packed milk.
Among the equipment purchased was a 15,000 litre per hour pasteurisation plant and 5,000 litre per hour yoghurt plant.
Yet, despite the governor promising that the factory would be up and running in three months, a year later, little progress has been made beyond delivering the machinery to the factory site in Maragua on the Murang’a-Nairobi highway.
The building that will house the processor has been done and some of the machinery such as the milk boiler installed. According to the bill of costs, the building works is supposed to have cost Sh64 million.
When The Standard visited the factory, there were six workers draining rain water from a pit that is expected to be a waste management unit.
Team in China
A team comprising the County Executive Member for Cooperatives and Special Programmes Edward Muiruri and MCC Managing Director Robert Kinuthia was in China last month to follow up on the delivery of a consignment of equipment.
Jane Mbuthia, a Murang’a County communications consultant, told The Standard some equipment had not been shipped into the country yet. She, however, said the factory would be completed towards the end of the year. “There is equipment that needs to be calibrated to our standard and that is why the Executive Member for Trade is currently in China to follow up on it,” said Ms Mbuthia.
She said the county expected the project to be completed by December.
Julius Maina, the MCC chairman, said dairy farmers were cautiously optimistic that the processing plant would be completed soon.
He blamed the last County Assembly for “refusing” to approve funds that would take the project forward.