Kenya: Milking opportunities

Global demand for milk is expected to outstrip supply over the next decade. In Africa, milk productivity is still far below the global average but efforts are being made to raise this considerably and the private sector is showing the way. Aamera Jiwaji reports.

Just days after Africa’s dairy producers gathered in Nairobi to discuss the challenges that afflict the continent’s dairy sector, packaging giant Tetrapak released the results of its fifth Dairy Index which shows that global dairy consumption is expected to rise 36% over the next 10 years.

The increased demand, the study outlines, is being fuelled by population growth, rising prosperity and urbanisation in Africa, Asia and Latin America and, for the first time ever, demand for milk around the world will overtake available supply.

The juxtaposition of the two events suggests a crisis in the global dairy sector since local market suppliers and traditional dairy exporters are unable to keep pace with growing consumption patterns.

It has spurred developmental organisations within the sector to step up activities, and the East Africa Dairy Development project in East Africa, for instance, has received an additional $25.5m from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, earmarked for Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Kenya’s government has also initiated a number of projects. At a national level, the country’s Ministry of Agriculture intends to improve the quality and range of veterinary services for livestock and to increase the capacity of the Kenya Meat Commission.

At the 10th African Dairy Conference in Nairobi, Kenya’s Deputy President, William Ruto, spoke of his government’s commitment to address the plight of the dairy sector by empowering farmers and boosting their productivity.

A flurry of activity has also been witnessed at the county level with the Elgeyo Marakwet county government setting aside KSh1.2m ($13,200) for dairy farming; Homa Bay planning to build a milk processing plant; Kakamega is intending to revive cooperative societies; and Lodwar is purchasing milk coolers to convince pastoralists to move from traditional cattle breeding to dairy farming.

Figures from the Kenya Dairy Board suggest that as a result of such increased investments, Kenya has witnessed a rise in milk processing from 2.9m to over 3.5m litres a day.

The emphasis placed on processing by the counties is designed to remedy a situation where, according to the Kenya Dairy Board, only 10% of the milk annually produced in Kenya is processed and packaged.

The insufficient number of processors is therefore a key challenge since few farmers have entered into it even though it is where higher profits stand to be made.

The vertical integration model of Githunguri Dairies, however, stands out as a success story of how ownership of the processing plant by a group of farmers increases their productivity.

The productivity levels of cows is another concern, and South African business consultant Kurt Davis Jr says in a blog post on, “In some sub-Saharan African countries, cows produce below 200 litres of milk per year, compared to over 12,500 litres per cow in some developed countries.”

He adds that while Kenya, for instance, has a larger cattle population than South Africa, its milk production numbers are not comparable.

According to Gerald Mutinda, Regional Manager at EADD, in 2013 Kenya produced five litres of milk per cow per day whereas it ought to be be producing 40 litres.

“We have too many cows producing too little milk,” he said in a former interview, urging that the solution would be to reduce the number of cows and increase yield per cow.