Hit by Covid-19, Dairy sector now cries for bail-out
The dairy industry is one of the single largest sub-sector of agriculture with a significant contribution to the Kenyan economy. Milk production has been identified as a key contributor to at least three of Kenya’s Big Four strategic priorities: health, food and nutrition security, and manufacturing.
However, the Kenyan dairy sector has suffered major setbacks in recent years.
The sector has suffered major setbacks in the recent past. In 2019, the market was flooded with cheap milk imports from neighbouring countries. The government stepped in then with measures to protect the local farmers, and just as measures were taking effect, the coronavirus pandemic landed in the country and it has served as a big blow to the sector.
The biggest consumer of milk and milk products are institutions of learning, hotels and restaurants.
But due to Covid-19 pandemic, the government announced several measures to curb the spread of virus including closing down schools, universities, tourism and air travel which have greatly affected the dairy sector.
During this season, most urban households have cut down their demand for milk as a cost-cutting measure due to diminishing purchasing power having lost their jobs or businesses. But on the flipside, in the rural households; we are witnessing increased milk consumption due to the presence of families at home the whole day.
Though this is a positive development for the nutrition of the rural households, it has negatively impacted on the cooperatives societies who are receiving less milk from the producers. Cooperatives are unable to meet agreed milk quarters with processors hence loss of income.
The Covid-19 fear is preventing farmers from venturing outside their farms. Also, farm inputs and supplies including animal feeds, drugs, and mineral salts are not easily available leading to low volumes of milk produced.
Where feeds are available the cost has tremendously increased. Feed millers are unable to secure raw materials as travelling to neighbouring countries has been restricted at our borders. Feeds quality has been compromised due to a lack of quality raw materials affecting milk yields. Employees at feed mills have further lost their jobs and income.
Due to declined income farmers, traders, cooperatives, are unable to meet their financial obligations. Further, training and extension services which were offered to farmers either by government agencies, the cooperatives, NGOs, churches or private companies are no longer possible with the public Health guidelines for coronavirus containment.
Some of the Covid-19 debilitating coping mechanisms for farmers include reducing concentrate feeds like dairy meal, disposal of animals to raise cash for family necessities and forced milk consumption at farm level
Some of the demands that farmers would want the government to address entail reducing concentrate feeds e.g dairy meal, supporting additional funding to agriculture sector for investment to aggressively promote the production of raw materials for feeds locally for instance cotton, sunflower, soya etc and producing feeds at farm level e.g. planting of fodder trees, brachia, nappier grass etc
Theirdly, they would want increased allocation to extension services to build capacities of farmers on on-farm feeds formulation among other skills necessary to ensure increased local production. An extension can still be made available through media e.g. radio, TV, and social media platforms. Another demand would be to allocate resources to capacity to build farmers on fodder production and preservation, increasing resource to capacity to build actors along chain on food safety in the dairy sector, supporting farmers’ groups or cooperatives to produce and store quality feeds for the dairy cows and establishing funds to support dairy cooperatives to improve their milk collection system for timely milk cooling and processing. Lastly, they would want allocation of funds to support dairy cooperatives to invest in the cold chain (milk cooling tanks and tankers) to preserve milk quality.
Waweru Nyangi is the Chairperson Nakuru Dairy Value Chain Platform and Risper Chelangat, Consumer Unity and Trust Society
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