Regulation: Diary sector stakeholders have what it takes to clean up the mess

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Farmers wait for their milk to be tested at Kajevuba collection centre in Rulindo District. (Net photo)

Editor,

RE:RSB crackdown on standards leave supermarkets short of dairy products” (The New Times, September 11). A collaborative approach is needed to address issues that are identified in a specific value chain commodity, for example a dairy value chain. According to FAO, dairy chain links the actors and activities involved in delivering milk and milk products to the final consumer—with each activity the product increases in value.

A dairy chain can involve production, transport, processing, packaging and storage. More to this definition, the chain also looks at animal feed suppliers and the quality and technicalities of animal feeding. The quality, infrastructure, skills, and investments are shared crosscutting issues that affect different stakeholders.

For RSB to identify hygienic issues in a dairy product like cheese or yogurt, one has to map the contribution of this issue at every stage within the chain and qualify or where necessary strengthen it. Now the question is of a chicken-egg, where do you start.

Some experts will tell you to start by the animal feeds, meaning what was given to the cow as feeding, did it have the necessary nutrient content? Then the milking process or the milk handling technicalities. The process to milk the cow and the handling of the milk by the farmers can attract various hygienic issues if not skilled. After this stage, you will need to identify the transporters of this milk, who most of the times collect milk from different sources and deliver to their clients.

Do they have the right transportation infrastructure, cooling systems and quality testing knowledge and skills? Then the small processing plants like the one doing cheese, what kind of technology are they using and what skilled necessary in this processing business? Do they have quality standards or are they knowledgeable on milk quality assessment, testing and other functions before they start cheese processing or the right investments? Does the packaging used maintain the quality standard or does it add as well dangerous elements to human lives?

So in approaching these issues, one has to bring together these stakeholders in a single value chain model and seek, at every level, the capacities needed. This could be financial and non financial.

A dairy campus that brings all dairy sub-sector players is needed as soon as yesterday to collaboratively address issues with future projection of the sub-sector growth with the potential to attract more investments in the sub-sector and stimulate new technologies.

Richard Niwenshuti