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Protect farmers too, to save dairy industry

OPEDS By Editorial | 10th Dec, 2019
35-year-old Josphat Getitu attending to his dairy cows at home at White house in Nakuru county.Photo: Kipsang Joseph/Standard

The Trade and Industrialization Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya has outlined a number of measures that he will implement to ease the current pricing shock being experienced in the dairy industry by farmers.

Sadly, though, the measures are more protective of the processors than the producers. This is an irony because it is the producers, the farmers who are suffering from the drastic price drop.

Processors are actually smiling all the way to the bank because they are buying raw milk at rock bottom prices. Their pricing of packaged milk has not changed meaning their profits are at a premium.

It is easy to understand the circumstances of Munya’s announcement being that he was at a function of one of the processors. But to address the current mess in the industry, which has made a mockery of the government’s policy on food security, we must rise above fear and politics to enable more than 2.5 small scale dairy farmers to benefit from what they do every day.

When this MT. Kenya Star earlier spoke to dairy farmers on what they want to be done to make their agribusiness profitable, they were very clear.

They wanted a system that guarantees them a minimum price per litre, no matter the level of supply in the market.

They wanted exemption of tax for animal feeds manufactures to make the feed cheaper and affordable to the farmers. Apparently, feed is the most expensive component of dairy farming.

Farmers wanted the governors to work with local cooperative societies to build milk processing factories to caution them for the national processors who are quick to control milk pricing.

We would expect therefore that the Cabinet Secretary also addresses these issues that are most important because they are coming from the farmers.

We call upon governors to seize this opportunity and start investing in dairy processing plants in collaboration with the dairy cooperative societies. Counties like Murang’a have taken this initiative and it is working.

We have said again that this model of county-based processing is important because the cooperative owned processor can also benefit from free school milk project that can be sponsored by the county governments to create a market for the processed milk. This will create a cycle where the dairy industry in a specific county is able to maintain, in full cycle, circulation of money at the local level and therefore adds much more value to the local economy.

Localised processing will also help to promote the culture of drinking processed milk in this country and therefore deepen the formal milk economy. We applaud the efforts by the CS to tackle the matters of the dairy industry, as much as this should have happened early enough. What is needed is a long term solution to this matter. In the case the situation normalizes, we should not forget that it will recur again next year.

Munya should work harder at least to gift the farmers that one lasting present so that as they invest in dairy farming, they have the comfort and confidence of knowing that never again will their income be disrupted by pricing shocks.

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