The prolonged drought and lack of animal feeds have occasioned milk shortage in the market Farmers in Nyagatare district used to supply up to 96,000 litres of milk per day to the formal market, but currently are pumping only 26,000 litres to the market.
The dry season, which has gone on longer than usual has seen pasture and dams dry up, leading to a drop in milk production.
The effects of climate change on milk production in Nyagatare are not only reflected in drought, but also in flooding.
Gahiga Gashumba, president of Nyagatare Dairy Farmers Union said the the pastureland meant for cattle rearing flooded, affecting many farmers.
He said River Muvumba and Akagera also flooded on farmlands bordering Tanzania, turning the land for pasture into foggy everglades “We are facing an acute shortage of milk largely caused by the prolonged drought; up to now it hasn’t rained in many places, the effects of climate change are taking a toll on our farming,” said Mr Gashumba.
“The grass was also attacked by insects which necessitated us to plough the land in a way of fighting the insects, the grass which grew afterwards was scanty and not enough for our cattle,” he said.
The lack of animal feed supply has remained a major constraint for all livestock farmers.
Napier grass and banana pseudo-stem are the most common feed items followed by weeds and cereal straws, sweet potato vines and maize bran are also used, but these haven’t been in reliable supply, but even where these have been used they haven’t given maximum yield in terms of milk production.
Mr Gashumba said the demand for milk in the country has grown significantly, yet the production hasn’t grown The milk shortage, however, has not triggered rise in prises. Mr Gasumba said there is additional pressure on farmers, forcing some of them to sell their milk to informal markets where prices are higher.
“Milk sold at collections centres are sold at Rwf220 per litre, where farmers get Rwf200, yet a litre is sold between Rwf300 and Rwf400 in informal markets, the prices milk processing companies buy does not correspond with what farmers are investing in production, this is a big issue” he noted.