Prolonged drought has sparked a heightened market competition for milk in the North Rift.
There is increased demand in the formal and informal sectors as dairy producers record a drop in production mainly due to shortage of feed for their livestock, with milk hawkers emerging as the biggest winners in the fight for market share.
A spot check in some estates in Eldoret town yesterday showed the price for a litre of milk from vendors has increased from Sh50 in the last few months to as high as Sh70 presently, owing to scarcity of the commodity.
A group of dairy farmers who supply milk to a processor in the area said the drought situation has seen a drop in milk production by about 50 per cent over the last three months.
Dr Paul Sanga, the chief executive of Lessos Livestock Breeders Network (LELBREN) in Nandi County said they are receiving 4,800kg of milk daily from members, down from over 12,000kg delivered during the peak season.
LELBREN collects and bulks milk from farmers before supplying it to established milk processors so as to enjoy economies of scale.
Drought is now a national disaster
The group’s members also enjoy other extension services as well as credit facilities.
“Due to the persistent drought, milk supplies have dropped to an average of 4,800 kgs daily over the last three months. The reduction is due to the current drought situation that has affected livestock feed,” said Dr Sanga.
He said the majority of dairy farmers rely on rain-fed pasture and were as a result reeling from the effects of the prevailing drought conditions.
Dr Sanga said the price spike was also being fueled by farmers’ preference to sell their produce to milk hawkers who are currently offering better prices than some processors.
“Some farmers prefer selling their produce to hawkers who pay cash at between Sh35 and Sh40 per kilo,” he said.
Dr Sanga further said although farmers have embraced high-yielding breeds, lack of feed during the dry seasons is still a challenge because most of them have not ventured into new methods of food management through hay or silage.
“Most farmers do not preserve animal feed in times of plenty and also wells have dried up, prompting the affected farmers to move for long distances to water their livestock in rivers because majority of residents do not access piped water,” he said.
Famine? Not really, it’s an emergency
Sostein Sumei, a farmer, recently stopped delivering milk to LELBREN, owing to diminishing volumes as a result of the dry spell.
“I used to supply between 15kg and 20kg of milk daily, but the volumes have dropped to about 5kg, prompting me to stop supplies from mid-January,” he said, adding that the napier grass he uses to supplement feed for his dairy cows have been depleted due to the drought, leaving him to ponder what to do next if it does not rain soon.
Ruriru-based processor Brookside is one of the dominant players in the dairy sector in the North Rift and the country and has more than 15 raw milk cooling stations in the region.
The processor uses the cooling stations to feed the bulking stations in the ara before transportation to Ruiru for processing.