The process of handling and transporting milk from farms across the country to collection centres and processing firms is set to improve after dairy farmers received equipment worth $1.3 million (Rwf1.1 billion).
The equipment include 25 milk coolers and 16,262 milk cans. The capacity of the cans ranges from five to 50 litres each while the coolers can handle over 2,000 litres each.
The move will help phase out the transportation of milk in jerrycans, which affects its quality because, quite often, they are unhygienic.
For long, dairy farmers have grappled with low incomes partly because of poor milk handling techniques which have continued to hurt quality.
Farmers’ cooperatives will receive the equipment through Rwanda Dairy Development Project (RDDP)—a joint project of the Ministry of Agriculture and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD).
The farmers will pay 20 percent of the equipment cost and the rest will be covered by RDDP.
Michel Ngarambe, a farmer organisation specialist at RDDP, said they seek to cut losses that dairy farmers incur.
“We want to increase first grade milk produce which is used to make long shelf life [processed], milk that lasts for nine months and it is still safe for consumption,” he said.
He added; “Some milk is rejected at collection centres, or at factory level because it has gone bad or its quality was impaired. But, when they [farmers] get standard equipment, there will be a significant reduction in the milk that was getting deteriorated, which will increase income [of farmers].”
Sebageni Damascene, the President of Mizingo Milk Collection Centre (MCC) in Kanzenze Sector of Rubavu District told The New Times that the lack of sufficient milk cooling system was hurting their earnings.
“We were receiving about 2,000 litres of milk every day as we have one milk cooler. If we get the second cooler, we’ll be able to receive more milk and ensure its quality,” he said.
A litre of unprocessed milk costs Rwf200, according to prices set by the ministry of trade and industry, but if it does not meet high quality, it is sold at Rwf140.
Annual milk production in Rwanda increased from 648,330 metric tonnes about 648.33 million litres in 2014 to 816, 791 metric tonnes (about 816. 79 million litres) in 2018, according to the ministry of agriculture.
Rwanda targets a per capita milk consumption of 80 litres per person per year by 2020, from approximately 40 litres in 2012, according to the National Dairy Strategy.
The projected cow milk production is at least 1.2 billion litres per year by 2022, according to Rwanda Livestock Sector Master Plan.
In order to achieve this target, the government says it will increase the number of crossbreed and pure exotic cows, mainly through artificial insemination and combined with improved feed and health interventions.
However, the sector is still rattled by scarcity and poor quality of feed (forage, concentrate) and shortage of water, which is occasioned by harsh weather conditions characterised by drought, especially in the eastern province.