Rwanda will be producing 1,250,000 tonnes of milk every year by 2024, so as to satisfy milk demand, Solange Uwituze, Deputy Director General in charge of Animal Resources Research and Technology Transfer at Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB) told The New Times. The target will also be aimed at catering for a milk powder plant that is under construction in Nyagatare District. Inyange Industries is setting up a powdered milk factory in Nyagatare District that will require 500,000 litres or 500 tonnes of milk per day or 180,000 tonnes per year. It will have an annual capacity to produce 14,000 tonnes or 14 million kilogrammes of milk powder and 5,460 tonnes of fat. According to Uwituze, as of 2021/22, Rwanda was producing 932, 951 tonnes of milk per year. She said farmers are being mobilised and supported to increase milk production to satisfy demand. “The Nyagatare powder milk factory will require a relatively high quantity of raw milk, (approximately 500,000 litres a day). It is primarily meant to get sourced from Nyagatare and nearby milk sheds like Gicumbi but mobilisation is done all over the country to increase milk production to be able to satisfy both the milk powder plant and the existing milk market,” she said. She said that various interventions have been initiated to increase milk production countrywide. These include; forage cultivation and training of dairy farmers on appropriate technologies for forage preservation, support to dairy farmers (especially those in areas mostly affected by the drought like in Eastern Province) to access water harvesting and preservation equipment through a subsidised scheme. The interventions also include the maintenance of feeder roads in Gishwati milk sheds to enhance the collection and distribution of milk. Drought has been affecting the Eastern province and reducing milk production. In August this year, the average quantity of milk collected from 15 milk collection centres (MCCs) in Nyagatare (a major milk shed in the country), decreased from 80,000-100,000 litres a day during the rainy season (March-April) to reach 39,900 litres a day (July) due to lack of forage and water for dairy cattle. This is the same issue that was exposed by Gahiga Gashumba, Chairperson of Nyagatare Dairy Farmers’ Union, who told The New Times that their milk production declined by about 70 per cent because of drought. Inyange Industries was receiving 80,000 litres of milk per day from dairy farmers in Nyagatare District during the rainy season, but that drastically dropped to 20,000 litres a day during the dry season this year. 350 farmers sign supply contracts “Additionally, Inyange Industries is signing milk supply contracts with dairy farmers to ensure the milk powder plant needs are met. The first session of contract signing was conducted in Nyagatare where more than 350 farmers committed to supply milk to Inyange. This exercise will continue in other milk sheds,” Uwituze said. The farmers, whose milk production for each is estimated at 50 litres per day, were selected from Nyagatare, Gatsibo, Rwamagana, Kayonza and Kirehe districts. As per the signed contracts, each farmer was obliged to increase milk production to 500 litres per day. Inyange Industries is training farmers to gain skills in increasing production in quantity and quality. She said that more efforts are in place by the government to increase milk production through artificial insemination. “The recent cattle registration data (2022) indicates that 84 per cent of the cattle population estimated at 1,436,676 heads is made of improved dairy breed and/or their crosses. The farmer’s access to artificial insemination services is also being enhanced through the provision of the same at the milk collection centre level,” she noted. Fred Twahirwa, a farmer from Nyagatare District, said: “We are going to express our needs so that the factory helps us. We need infrastructure. We need water for our cows, forage. We need seeds from the government. We also need high-yielding breeds,” he said. Eastern province has 10 big pastures on over 100 hectares, where cows providing 250,000 litres per day are being reared.