Farmers cite cost, dry season for persistent milk shortage

Wednesday November 10 2021
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According to farmers,the inability to feed cattle satisfactorily saw production dip by between 40 percent and 60 percent. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA


The ongoing milk shortage in the country is exposing longstanding concerns around non-remunerative prices offered to farmers with the margins leaving producers operating at a loss, hence struggling to cope with input costs.

“To be honest, it makes little sense for a farmer to pick interest in new breeds or embrace modern farming methods to boost yield because returns based on today’s farm gate prices can’t compensate for these costs,” Aloys Hakuzimana, a Burera district-based cattle farmer told Rwanda Today.

Farmers in the district, like elsewhere in livestock farming areas of the country, have been reeling under the Rwf150 to Rwf200 per litre tariff even with prices rising over the past few months following a prolonged dry season.

In Nyagatare, a major livestock farming area where rains allowed livestock to graze and feed on dams’ water, farmers incur extra water bills for between 40 litres to 60 litres per cow daily, while grass is estimated at between Rwf2,500 and Rwf3,000 per cow daily.

More spending goes to cow feeds concentrates, which are even more expensive as they are based on imported ingredients whose costs increased significantly on the market.

“Now most farmers only make sure the cattle survive. No milk production is possible. The adjustment of the farm gate price is so far the only thing that can help farmers get motivated to keep going. Our push did not yield fruits as the study undertaken by the Trade and Agriculture ministry officials is yet to come out,” said Gahiga Gashumba, head of the union of dairy farmers in Nyagatare.


According to Gashumba, inability to feed cattle, especially in the absence of rains, saw production dip by between 40 percent and to 60 percent and this would have a bearing on the planned 500,000-litre milk processing plant planned in the area by Inyange Industries, the sole processor formally absorbing milk produce.

“Our hope is to see a realistic farm gate tariff incorporated in the feasibility study for the plant, or the impending review of farmers’ cooperative contracts with Inyange Industries. We feel that this is the right time to a look at the possibility of determining a rate for the dry season and the rain season. It is our suggestion. The decision lies with government,” he said.

Margins offered to farmers remained unchanged at below Rwf200 per litre across the surveyed dairy farming areas even after price of milk almost doubled from Rwf350 to Rwf550 at retail shops, with processed milk fetching the highest margins at Rwf1,500 from Rwf1,000 before. As a result, a section of dairy farmers has been shunning the formal milk market for the informal.

Inyange Industries acknowledged a significant decline in volumes they collect from farmers but maintains its prices did not change, implying middlemen and traders were to blame.

Ministry of Trade of officials on Monday told Rwanda Today a team had been dispatched on ground to delve into the milk shortage crisis and would comment after examining its report.