Loss-making dairy farmers are eyeing a turnaround of their fortunes from government’s promise that schools, prisons and hospitals would soon start buying their produce on regular basis.
According to the farmers’ representatives, a drive to save them from losses will see government injects funds to boost capacity of milk collection centres to stock milk that will be supplied to schools across the country.
The dairy federation boss Gahiga Gashumba indicated that this called for installation of milk pasteurisation equipment at key collection centres and coolers to facilitate storage and distribution.
Rwanda Today learnt that a tender will be floated to seek a supplier of the needed equipment with the funding of the Rwanda Dairy Development project operating in 12 districts.
“There are 20 locations already mapped out including a number of schools, hospitals, prisons and busy commercial centres that will start taking our milk,” said Mr Gashumba.
“We hope to find a market for not only grade two milk volume that is rejected by the processors but also the evening milk produced for which we have no market until currently,” he added.
The move to tap into schools, prison and hospitals to sell surplus milk is the latest attempt to support loss-making dairy farmers.
Selling milk to schools was highlighted by the recent national leadership retreat, which tasked officials to identify different market opportunities to ensure no more milk goes to waste.
Despite a constant boost in milk production across the country’s dairy farming zones, the sole bulk buyers who include Inyange Industries and its subsidiary Mukamira Dairy barely increased their processing capacity as they only take grade one milk.
Data from the Rwanda Agriculture Board show the milk collection centres, a number of which lacked connection to power, water and road infrastructure, were only handling 25 per cent of the total milk produced in the country estimated at over two million litres.
Farmers in the Gishwati-Nyabihu zone put the daily loss at close to 65,000 litres of milk as the Mukamira Dairy only takes24,000 litres out of more than 105,000 litres the area generates daily.
Farmers in Nyagatare zone whose daily production increased to 65,000 litres only sold a half to Inyange industries. Gicumbi dairy zone with between 40,000 and 45,000 litres daily also face the same challenge.
Gad Gahaya, head of dairy farmers in the Nyabihu zone said some public schools in Musanze, Nyabihu and Rubavu had signed contracts with Mukamira Dairy to start supplying them with milk.
“We are yet to see how it will impact the absorption of the surplus milk as it is just starting,” he said.
Half a litre of milk per student
Milk supply to schools is understood to be in line with the Ministry of Education’s recent instructions to nursery, primary and secondary schools to ensure each children get half a litre of milk on their daily menu.
Head teachers, however, told Rwanda Today that the schools only offered milk to nursery and early primary class children as part of One Cup of Milk per Child initiative funded by the National Early Childhood Development programme.
This is because it is not still how the schools would be able to foot the cost of the milk supplies due to inadequate funding. As of last week, milk prices were ranging between Rwf140 and Rwf200 a litre.
This means schools will have to fork out between Rwf70 and Rwf100 for each student to get half a litre of milk on their menu as the government programme requires. According the government funding arrangement with schools, each student gets only Rwf56 for a meal per day.