Dairy farmers are not sure whether their milk produce will be bought or not because of lack of enough processing facilities and infrastructure.
The problem was more pronounced last month when Rwanda stopped exporting grade two milk which scores below 80 percent on a scale of 100 points in terms of quality – to Kenya and Uganda.
Grade two milk is not suitable for the production of UHT milk – long shelf-life fresh milk – because it gets altered owing to exposure to ultra-high-temperature that grade one (first quality) milk is exposed to, according Dr Solange Uwituze, the Deputy Director General of Animal Research and Technology Transfer at Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB).
However, she said, it can be used for making cheese, yoghurt and fermented milk.
Gad TegeriGahiya, the chairman of Nyabihu Dairy Farmers Cooperatives’ union said that, as a result of the problem, Mukamira Dairy rejected about 10,000 litres of grade two milk went bad. The grade one (first quality) milk sells at Rwf200, while the grade two milk is Rwf140.
Overall, he said, Mukamira Dairy receives about 60 percent of the milk that the farmers in the Western Province’s Gishwati zone supply, estimated at over 30,000 litres.
“Milk should have to be in cooling equipment of two hours, if not, it goes bad. This necessitates infrastructure that includes roads, automobiles to quickly transport, as well as cooling equipment,” he said.
The Chairperson of National Federation of Dairy Farmers, GahigaGashumba, told Sunday Times that the issue pushed farmers’ representatives, Private Sector Federation and district authorities to meet last month and chartthe way forward.
Over 3,500 litres of milk was rejected at Savannah Dairy in Nyagatare District on November 26, 2018, according to figures from the federation.
“One of the resolutions from the meeting was to consider ways the Union of dairy farmers in the district can set up a small processing factory to make pasteurised milk and yoghurt as well as ghee,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), Jean Claude Musabyimana, said the export market to Uganda and Kenya has faced challenges, citing introduction of a tax system that imposed high taxes on both the cold chain milk truck and the milk container, which was not profitable.
In a line with finding a solution to the problem of lack of market for farmers’ milk, Musabyimanasaid government institutions ,including MINAGRI, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM), the Ministry of Education, and the Early Childhood Development programme entered into talks to look for ways to increase milk given to children under school feeding programme.
“But, that is not a lasting response. We need to look for a sustainable solution,” he said.
Uwituze said her institution has partnered with MINAGRI, MINICOM and Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) to empower Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to make such dairy products from grade two milk.
So far, she said, there are about 10 SMEs which are buying the milk from farmers to process purposes in Western Province.
“We need to develop feeder roads to ease transportation to milk collection centres and dairies. There should also be diversification of milk products, such as to make various products from the grade two milk, she said.
“Grade two milk problems are still in Nyagatare District, where we have no entities to make those products from milk,” she said.
Rwanda produces about 2 million litres of milk per day, but only about 10 percent of it is processed, according to information from MINAGRI.
Rwanda’s milk production went up by 17 percent from 700,267 metric tonnes in 2015 to 816,791 metric tonnes in 2017.