Dairy farmers protest sharp drop in raw milk prices

10th Dec, 2019
Margaret Riungu indicating the qualities of a good udder for high milk production at her farm in Meru on November 21, 2019. [Olivia Murithi, Standard]

Dairy farmers in Nyandarua County have protested a sharp drop in raw milk prices in the last two months.

Leading milk processors are currently buying raw milk for Sh17 a litre, down from Sh30 two months ago.

In February and March, this year, most processors were buying the milk for between Sh23 and Sh27 per litre, down from Sh35.

Joseph Gitau, a farmer, told The Standard yesterday that the move to liberalise the market had made it impossible for them to sell their milk at a better price.

The farmer at Milangine village, who has been in the dairy business for more than 10 years, said the venture is no longer sustainable.

“Feeding my family is now a struggle. I don’t know how I will pay school fees for my children beginning January. It is tough!” said the father of four.

Sh20 drop

Prior to price slump, Mr. Gitau was a prominent dairy farmer in the region.

But two months ago, things changed for the worst after milk processors slashed the price of raw milk by almost Sh20.

The processors dropped the price to Sh17 a litre. Before this, the milk price had dropped from Sh35 to Sh23.

James Njuguna, a director of Nyala Dairy Cooperative Society, which processes milk in Ndaragwa and other outlets in Nyandarua County said there was a milk glut in the region.

Other officials from the Nyahururu New KCC Limited, which serves the region, and Kinangop Dairy Limited declined to comment on the matter.

“We have been forced to reduce the buying price as there is a lot of milk in the region and yet we have no place to sell our produce. This is our last option,” said Mr. Njuguna.

Local management of New KCC declined to comment on the matter saying it is only the headquarters that can speak to the media about milk prices.

Just like Gitau, other farmers in the region have protested the move by local dairy companies to reduce the purchase price of the commodity.

Farmers who spoke to The Standard said the sharp drop took effect two months ago.

Jane Muthoni regretted that farmers were now incurring heavy losses.

“There was no explanation given by the management of the dairy processing plants where we deliver the milk. The price drop took effect simultaneously in all dairy plants,” she said. She said farmers are incurring losses totaling to millions of shillings since prices for livestock feeds have not gone down.

Cry for help

“We need help from the government as hay prices and other feeds for our animals keep on increasing. We do not understand why they dropped milk prices,” she said.

Mr. John Njenga, a dairy farmer in Shauri village wondered why milk prices went down yet the commodity was in high demand.

“It is common sense that when the commodity is in high demand, the price goes up. We are experiencing the opposite in Nyandarua,” he said.

Local leaders led by Nyandarua Woman Representative Faith Gitau has now called for the government’s intervention. She blamed middlemen for exploiting farmers.

Ms. Gitau said most local farmers rely on milk production and if the sector collapses, the region would remain in poverty. “Milk is one of Nyandarua’s backbones and we cannot sit and watch as the sector collapses as it happened to pyrethrum. The government must come in and rescue our farmers,” she said.

She called on the national government to make sure that the 35 milk coolers promised are delivered.

Deputy President William Ruto, during a tour of the area three months ago, promised that the national government would deliver 35 milk coolers to be distributed to the five-sub counties.

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