Your recent visits to your favorite retailer for milk purchases have probably been met with a series of disappointments owing to the constant state of unusually empty milk counters. Chances are, you have cited your complaints and frustrations to the management regarding this milk concern, and each time you get the same dispiriting response, that the matter is beyond their control as it is a countrywide issue. And you will get to learn, as you read on, that there is, in fact, an acute shortage of milk in Kenya.
Visit any nearest supermarket today and you will either miss your preferred milk brand or get the available stock at a significantly hiked price. Some outlets have been forced to regulate the amount of milk purchased per customer. There are extreme cases of major distributors raising the milk prices by up to 10% due to the milk shortage. Hence, the big question: What is causing the current shortage of milk in Kenya?
Milk Production in Kenya
A brief picture of the dynamics of milk production in Kenya would perhaps be helpful in guiding us to the root cause of the current milk decline in Kenya today. For instance, did you know that Kiambu is the leading milk-producing county in Kenya, followed closely by Nyandarua County? A report published by the Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Development revealed that Kiambu produces about 45000l. of milk followed by Meru and Nyandarua producing an average of 42000l per day.
Commercial milk production is influenced by quite a number of factors including cost and availability of pasture and fodder. Technological factors like the availability and cost of electricity play a crucial role in the milk processing section of milk production. Availability of electricity is vital because any slight interference will limit the amount of milk produced per day further affecting the amount of milk stock available in the markets. Government regulations through the Kenya Dairy Board also affect the consistency of milk production in Kenya.
Any matter that hinders the above-stated determinants consequently affects the overall milk production thus causing the current shortage of milk in Kenya as discussed further below.
What is Causing the Current Shortage of Milk in Kenya?
Prolonged drought is the leading cause of the current reduction in milk production in Kenya. The absence of rainfall affects pasture production and fodder availability. For dairy cows to produce milk efficiently they should be consistently well-fed. Any reduction in the amount and quality of feed results in a consequent reduction in the amount of milk produced. A case in point is Ol Kalou Dairy (2016) Ltd, whose dairy collection has reduced from 60000kg per day to 23000kg because of the adverse effects of drought in different parts of the country.
Nyandarua and Kiambu counties are not the only counties enormously impacted by the prolonged dry season. Other counties like Nairobi and Nakuru are also experiencing hardship with most distributors in Nakuru opting to sell long-life milk brands at Ksh. 60 from Ksh. 50 and Ksh. 55 – a classic illustration of the law of supply and demand wherein this case, the milk prices have been raised due to the reduced supply and the constant demand.
Overall, milk distribution by farmers to milk processing industries across the country has gradually reduced by up to 50% and the impact of this decline is currently being felt by consumers in urban areas.
Milk processing industries rely heavily on KPLC electricity to uphold their production capacity. Counties like Nyandarua have for a while cited complaints about the irregularity of electricity supply in most of their processing industries. According to a report by the Kenya Bureau of Statistics, inconsistent power supply at The Ol Kalou Dairy 2016 processing industry has lowered its production to 23000kg per day despite its potential production capacity of 100000kg per day. This low supply in spite of the high cost of production forces the suppliers to adjust their milk prices in order to easily meet their production costs.
Additionally, dairy production is a farming system that has greatly evolved over the years. With the help of research and other innovative practices, the sector has adopted expert and advanced technological equipment to help speed up the production process. A good example is the automated milking machine. Most farmers are however rigid. They would rather stick to their familiar, yet, outdated system of production and hence do not meet their potential productivity rates to effectively sustain our fast-growing population.
According to the Kenya Dairy Farmers Federation, the government is to blame for the current milk shortage in Kenya. The federation insists that unless the government lowers its tax on dairy feeds, the milk shortage may most likely be experienced for months to come.
Another government regulation that has massively affected milk circulation in our country is the ban on milk importation from Uganda. The ban, which was affected in 2019, is partly responsible for the current shortage of milk in Kenya.
Additionally, there is also reason to believe that some government personnel intends to gain full autonomy of the milk processing and distribution sector. To gain full control, they use malicious acts to cripple other available competitors hence creating a state of monopoly in the sector.
Borrowing from the great scholar and philosopher, Albert Einstein, there is no problem that cannot be solved. Despite the stress and heartache caused by the current unbearable food cost, we should be able to view this milk crisis from a solvable stance.
First, the relevant stakeholders should take full responsibility for their role in this situation with the government taking the overall lead. The production cost will be ultimately solved once the tax levied on the dairy production inputs like animal feeds and veterinary services and products are subsidized. The government can also impact the efficiency of the power supply by upgrading the distribution lines to prevent unnecessary inconveniences.
Cooperatives should also act jointly with the Kenya Dairy Board to train farmers on the new efficient systems of milk production. More storage facilities should then be put in place to ensure small-scale farmers are not left out in the commercial milk distribution system.
In a nutshell
The looming milk shortage has been a gradual occurrence. You are probably taking full notice of this crisis right now because of the intolerable milk prices, but in reality, the shortage had been manifesting as far as since 2019. While the drought is the leading cause of the setback, different factors like government regulations and other technological components play a significant role in the current decline of milk in Kenya.
Much can be said about the current shortage of milk in Kenya but unless the relevant stakeholders are proactive about restoring normalcy to our food system, no sustainable solution will be arrived at.
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