Milk production in the country has experienced an 11 per cent growth in the last two years, according to statistics from Rwanda Agricultural Board (Rab).
The output increased from 442,337 tonnes in 2011 to 503,130 tonnes by last year despite the decrease in the livestock.
Litres consumed per capita grew from 44.2 in 2011 to 50.1 in 2012, Andrew Kagabo, the national coordinator, Girinka programme, said.
Girinka is a cattle-stocking programme introduced by government, to ensure that at least every poor household is given a cow, for not only producing milk, but also manure for their farmlands.
According to Kagabo, the increase in milk output could have been stimulated by the importing high-yielding animal breeds over the years by the government, gradually replacing the less productive indigenous ones.
“Since 2006, more than 1.7 million head of cattle have been imported and distributed to farmers, and this obviously explains the increase in milk supply,” he said.
He added that the introduction of cross breeding, which has been intensified over a decade now by the establishment of ‘bull stations’ in different parts of the country to enhance artificial insemination, have produced breeds that have a higher milk potential harvest, genetically.
The growth in output, according to Rab, is attributed to government efforts to facilitating farmers, by equipping them with basic animal husbandry management skills, which has translated into harvesting more milk from their animals.
The relative increase in farm gate milk prices from just Rwf150 to about Rwf250 in a period of two years is also given as reason for the upturn in output.
“The increase in pay motivated us to invest more in the dairy sector, leading to production and supply upturn,” says David Rwimira, a farmer in Musanze District.
However, the sector still faces obstacles, according to Alphonse Nshimiyimana, the director of animal production at Rab.
Nshimiyimana said there is still insufficient fodder for cattle, especially during the dry season, which limits milk output.
“Tick borne diseases such as East Coast Fever, anaplasmosis, lumpy skin infections that spread from neighbouring countries, especially, are still a threat to our livestock, ” Nshimiyimana said.
However, according to Kagabo, several measures are being taken to eliminate some of the challenges. He said all livestock entering the country, for instance, are thoroughly screened to eliminate potential spread.
To avert feeds insufficiency, farmers are constantly urged to grow and stock plenty during the rainy season and also develop fodder conservation means.
They are also given free planting materials like seeds, he said.