Dairy farmers in Burera district have raised concern over limited supply of electricity, which expose them to high operating costs occasioned by use of generators.
Farmers said high costs they incur on operating and maintaining the generators eat into their profits.
Most farmers took advantage of government programmes, which include use introduction of hybrid dairy cattle to increas volumes of milk as well as the one cow per family to venture into dairy farming.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, annual milk production in the country increased to one billion litres in 2019, from 648.33 million litres in 2014.
However, limited processing capacity of the milk has exposed many farmers to losses.
“With parts of Rwereri and Butaro sectors among others not connected to electricity, a lot of milk is lost because storage facilities are not connected to electricity,” said Thadee Ngwijabahizi, head of the milk dealers in Burera district.
While dairy farmers secured cooling equipment from the Business Development Fund, it remains unutilised due to lack of electricity.
Johan Niyonteze, head of Urukundo diary federation in the western province, told Rwanda Today adoption of crossbreed varieties on 75 per cent, milk produced per cow has increased from five litres to 15 litres a day.
“Using a generator to run our milk collection centre has not benefited us because of high costs involved,” said Mr Niyonteze, adding that farmers are under pressure from the Ministry of Agriculture to keep it running.
According to Niyonteze, Mukamira Diary, a subsidiary of Inyange Industries, which was set up to help farmers find a market for their milk, has limited capacity as they can only take first grade milk.
“Mukamira Diary used to take all the first grade milk and some of the second grade, but now they are no longer taking even all first grade,” he added.
However, even areas that are connected to electricity, farmers say the power is not sufficient because it is supplied through single-phase, which is best for only lighting.
“We have been connected with the single-phase electricity supply, which cannot run a milk collection centre.
This hampers running of milk cooling machineries,” said Augustin Butera, a farmer and a resident of Nyagatare district.
Rwempasha milk collection centre in Rwimiyaga sector and Katabagemu Milik collection centre are among the connected ones to single-phase electricity.
Besides the areas connected with the single-phase type of electricity, which is best for home lighting, the government said10 sectors, among them Mugano, Musange, Nkomane of Nyamagabe district, Rwaniro in Huye district, Cyabakamyi in Nyanza district, Ndego sector in Kayonza district will be connected to power soon.
Ministry of Infrastructure said these areas will be given priority in efforts to connects most parts of the country to electricity.
“We have prioritised these areas and we are working on it so that before the end of June, will connect them to electricity, save for Ndego sector where more works are needed,” said Claver Gatete, Minister for Infrastructure.
The Ministry of Infrastructure said the upgrading works of single phase to triphase, which recently kicked off in the eastern province will cover the whole country before the end of the year.