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New regulations spell doom for small scale dairy farmers

An African woman milking. (File, Standard)

Farmers will pay hefty fines of up to a half a million shillings among a raft of other punitive measures and levies should proposed dairy industry regulations be adopted.

The a half a million shilling fine relates to contraventions, including selling of milk to hawkers. The regulations force farmers to pasteurise their own milk or send to a milk cooling facility if they lack capacity.

Yesterday, Kenyans read mischief in the proposals. A lot of them took to Twitter and other social media platforms to throw barbs at the Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) which they accused of hatching a plot to turn the milk industry into a preserve of the large processors.

Experts, however, say that the attempt at formalising the dairy industry -- by the dairy board -- might have come off in bad light, especially given that some sections of the proposed rules are ambiguous.
Experts say some of the proposals were aimed at helping to streamline the industry, but the approach and lumping together of the regulations had come out in a bad light.

Evidence of quality assurance

For example, one of the regulations on traceability of milk requires that all milk for sale be clearly marked.

“Dairy produce which is placed on the market or is likely to be placed on the market shall be adequately labeled or identified to facilitate its traceability,” reads part of the regulations.

A section of another set of regulations reads: “All operations and activities along the milk value chain including milking, milk collection, transportation, processing and distribution on which evidence of quality assurance is required to be observed under this Regulations, shall have all such evidence recorded and the records thereof processed and maintained in accordance with this Part.”

In the Dairy Produce Traceability Information Sheet, every player along the supply chain are required to provide ‘Lot Number’ and ‘Batch Number,’ requirements that small-scale holders would struggle to provide.

Timothy Njagi, a research fellow with Tegemeo Institute, an agricultural policy think tank, agreed that the government’s intention is to have all milk formalised.

However, he regretted that they are too vague and susceptible to misinterpretation. “I don’t think whoever drafted them had the small-holder farmers in mind,” said Njagi, adding that of all the many regulations - 12 - not one addressed the issue of market concentration.  

Kenya Dairy Board Managing Director Margaret Kibogy has come out saying that some of these are only suggestions the milk regulator has received during a forum to review Dairy policy and regulations developed in the 1990s.

“The proposed regulations do not in any way attempt to create any monopoly or stifle the dairy sector but are meant to enhance and promote sustainability of the sector to the benefit of all stakeholders,” Mrs Kibogy said.

She said the draft was developed by experts in government, private sector, development partners, milk producers, traders and processors since 2016 culminating in a national stakeholder forum held in June 2017 at Kalro headquarters.

County governments also gave their input and another draft was presented in March.

“During and after the forum, a lot of comments have been received by the secretariat and are being considered and inputted into the document. The comments are highly commendable and encouraged by the Board as they provide useful enrichment to the document,” Kibogy said.

“It is noted however that some of the comments made through various media outlets are misrepresentations,” she said.

The Dairy Board boss said the regulations are meant to ensure consumption of safe and quality milk.
She added that views are welcome to the board to update the old policy in line with the liberalised nature of the sector and to respond to increasing incidences of malpractices in the milk trade.

The new regulations are also meant to respond to demands on quality and safety, new technology and help farmers access markets.

But the remarks came after comments had spread all over social media.
Some Kenyans on Twitter pointed to regulations prohibiting selling of milk to neighbours and which give buyers overwhelming power to decide the price of milk based on quality and not the quantity of the milk.

The buyers may also be given a free hand to import milk whenever they feel there is a shortage which would flood the country with cheaper milk at the expense of the farmer given the global prices and corporate valid motivation for profit.

“Processors are free to import milk at any time there is inadequate milk for the local market. They will determine when the milk is not enough,” a section of the rules states.

This comes when the Kenyan market has had unique challenges of pricing and dominance by Brookside Dairy, which in the recent past bought out some of its competitors.

The Government-controlled New Kenya Cooperative Creameries (New KCC) has been struggling to find its footing in the market, and farmers have in the recent months been forced to sell their milk at what they say is below cost.

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