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Dairy farmers threaten to stop milk deliveries as prices drop

By Silah Koskei | March 13th 2019

A farmhand at Kapsuswa farm in Sugoi, Uasin Gishu County. [File]

Dairy farmers in Rift Valley have protested a drop in raw milk prices, saying they are being paid lower than the cost of production.

Most processors are currently buying raw milk for between Sh23 and Sh27 per litre, down from Sh35 two months ago.

The farmers said the move to liberalise the East African market had made it impossible for them to sell their milk at a better price.

“It is disheartening that nobody wants to talk about how to cushion dairy farmers from exploitation. Market prices have dipped while the cost of animal drugs, salt and feeds have risen. Why is the State turning a blind eye to this once lucrative sector?” asked John Kangogo, a dairy farmer from Uasin Gishu County.

Mr Kangogo said the ongoing dry weather had pushed up the cost of animal feeds, forcing them to dig deeper into their pockets as they waited for the dairy regulator to intervene on milk prices.

“Most farmers in the region are struggling with feeds and have gone to great lengths to ensure they provide additives to their animals to beat the scorching sun. But the Government has not offered any solutions,” he said.

Sylvester Chemuor, a dairy farmer in Nandi County, said he used to supply 100 litres of milk to the New Kenya Cooperative Creameries, but he was currently struggling to feed his cows to achieve maximum production.

Maize farming

“Maize farming is on its deathbed in this region that used to be the country’s bread basket. Farmers had initially decided to run to the dairy sector but frustrations coupled with failure by the ministry to regulate the sector has made life difficult,” said Mr Chemuor.

David Bett, a farmer from Bomet County, said the importation of milk from neighbouring countries was hurting the dairy sector.

Mr Bett suggested that counties be allowed to champion the rights of dairy farmers by offering regulatory oversight.

“We need to come together as a strong advocacy group by ensuring that counties that produce milk also strive to regulate it. The milk will be processed within counties, which will help us source for markets that offer better prices,” he said.

Bett said that it was prudent to establish a policy to address issues affecting dairy farmers.

The farmers’ sentiments come in the wake of plans by an umbrella body that advocates for dairy farmers’ rights to stop delivering raw milk to processors.

Boycott deliveries

Speaking yesterday on phone, Kenya Dairy Farmers Federation Chief Executive Officer Gideon Birgen said they would boycott milk deliveries to protest the falling prices.

“We have a big problem in the dairy sector. We are toiling hard to ensure that we produce quality milk but we are faced with challenges that have been caused by the processors,” said Mr Birgen.

He claimed that the market was flooded with powdered milk from neighbouring countries, which made it difficult for farmers to sell their raw milk and make a profit. “We are going to cripple the dairy sector by the end of the week. Our concerns have to be heard because we have constantly been neglected by the State.”

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