The Government has outlined areas of intervention to increase the capacity of milk collections centres — facilities where raw milk from farms is collected and cooled.
The existing milk collection centres are operating below capacity, averaging just 25 per cent, according to official data.
The facilities collect milk from farms in a given area and test it to make sure that it meets the quality needed before it is sold to consumers and processing plants.
The just concluded 16th national leadership retreat proposed, among other resolutions, partnerships between the Government and the private sector a bid to increase the ability of dairy framers to access milk collection centres.
Solange Uwituze, the Deputy Director General of Animal Research and Technology Transfer at Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) told Sunday Times that the milk collection centres in the country have the capacity to receive and handle 489,365 litres of milk per day, just 25 per cent of the total milk produced in the country.
Given that the milk collection centres cannot handle the country’s daily production which is over 2 million litres per day, it means that some milk goes to waste due to poor handling.
Among the challenges affecting milk collection centres include the lack of effective transport infrastructures such as good roads and equipment to keep the milk cool and safe in the process of transporting it to the facilities.
Others are insufficient electricity to power milk cooling equipment in addition to the high cost of electricity as well as poor management of milk collection centres.
Uwituze said that one of the interventions to be made is to increase the supply of three-phase electricity, which will be done over time. This type of electricity refers to energy installation that provides sufficient power to run machineries compared to ordinary single phase electricity supply.
For instance, Uwituze explained, a milk cooler of 1,000 litre capacity and above require 3 phase electricity.
“So far, 93 milk collection centres are connected to such type of electricity, and 16 others are planned to be connected (eight in the financial year 2018/2019 and eight others in 2019/2020),” she said.
The Government also seeks to improve the quality, quantity and hygiene of milk, she observed.
She disclosed that among other reforms that are being lined up is to promote milk collection centres that offer other services such as operating [veterinary] pharmacy, and providing feeds to livestock farmers, into milk processing SMEs.
Concerning the improvement of cold chain to keep milk safe from production to transportation and processing, she said, they will work with projects such as Rwanda Dairy Development Project and Post-harvest and Agribusiness Support Project (PASP) which give matching grant for people to buy trucks or other automobiles equipped to keep milk cool at recommended temperatures so that it can travel long distance without being deteriorated.
Managers of milk collection centres say that the electricity they need to operate is expensive, especially as they are not classified as industries that enjoy business incentives of lower tariffs.
A farmer gets Rwf200 as a standardised price for litre of milk at the milk collection centre, which also sells it at Rwf220 to processing factories.
“For instance, we spend about Rwf80,000 on electricity to fuel a machine that cools 3,500 litres per day. Given the proceeds we get and the operational as well as maintenance cost for milk collection centres, you realise that our profit is too little to effectively develop our activities,” said Valence Ahishakiye, the manager of IAKIB – a cooperative for modern dairy farmers - in Gicumbi District.
IAKIB has 10 milk collection centres, which receives between 35,000 and 38,000 litres of milk per day.
Ahishakiye requested the Government to look for ways through which they can access affordable energy such as through integrating them into the category of industries.
Constructing more milk collection centres
Government plans to increase the number of milk collection centres from 56 to 177 by 2024, according to the fourth strategic plan for agriculture transformation.
Main projects to drive this development include Rwanda Dairy Development Project (RDDP) which targets to set up 77 milk collection centres.
Key interventions to achieve target, as contained in the plan, include mobilising private sector investment in the MCCs construction and operationalisation, and reinforcement of the implementation of milk supply regulations.
Linking rural farmers to markets
Gérardine Mukeshimana, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources said during a recent meeting with the parliamentary plenary that feeder roads estimated 500 estimated to kilometres are planned to be built since June, 2019 in the districts of Gatsibo, Nyagatare, Nyabihu, Nyaruguru, Gakenke and Rutsiro.
Mukeshimana said that this move will help upgrade roads that are in in poor condition especially in the Gishwati area – one the highest milk producing regions in the country.