The country’s milk production has increased from 189,827 tonnes in 2007 to 257,197 tonnes in 2008, according to statistics from the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR).
This represents a 35 percent increase of production. According to recently released figures there was also a 64 percent increase in 2006.
Dr. Théogène Rutagwenda, the Director General of Rwanda Animal Resources and Development Agency (RARDA), attributed the increase to the increased practice of crossbreeding among local cows and heifers with exotic breeds.
“Locals have tested the advantages of hybrids over local cattle in milk and beef production,” he explained.
“Hybrids are also more tolerant to inadequate nutrition, disease and insects, which is an issue for farmers. Farmers highly imported exotic cows in the recent past.” Rutagwenda added.
Over 25 percent of the total cattle population is believed to be hybrid and exotic. Last year, 49,000 cows and heifers were inseminated with exotic bull bovine semen and 25,000 calves have been produced so far.
This is said to have helped in addressing the individual milk requirement of at least 200 litres per annum. However, the production is still below average of the 200 litres estimated for each Rwandan annually.
Only 0.29 litres was consumed by each Rwandan last year, of the estimated 9 million people. According to RARDA, the increase in milk production has subsequently reduced the reliance on milk importation.
Last year’s statistics from BNR also revealed that milk importation has greatly reduced since 2002 from 1378 tonnes to 450 tonnes in 2007. This represents a 67 percent decrease.
It is upon this back ground that government through the Centre for Support to Small and Medium Enterprises in Rwanda (CAPMER) is urging dairy sector stakeholders to consider investing in Ultra High Treatment milk production.
This is because UHT milk has a longer life span, which could guarantee milk supply during dry seasons. It is also inexpensive to store since it can survive at room temperatures for about 6-9 months.
Government is also seeking to improve on the transportation and handling of milk countrywide. The move is aimed at minimising milk losses and improving the quality of dairy products on the existing local market.