Rise in demand, price of milk hit poor households in Kigali

Tuesday August 30 2022

Milk being transported to the market. Photo: Cyril Ndegeya

By Ange Iliza

Sharp rise in demand for milk in Kigali has triggered high prices, making it beyond reach for poor families. Prices of both processed and unprocessed milk have more than doubled in the recent months.

A mini-survey by Rwanda Today shows the cost of processed milk in the market increased to Rwf 1,400 per liter from Rwf1,000 as a 12-piece carton costs between Rwf9,000 and Rwf12,000 from Rwf5,000.

With a liter of second-grade milk preferred mostly by low-income earners and poor households is selling at between Rwf600 and Rwf800 from Rwf430 at milk kiosks in May.

This was before the Ministry of Industry and Trade set official prices effective August 24. Farmers will get Rwf300 for per liter of milk as the minimum price at the milk collection center which will then be sold to consumers at Rwf322.

Milk processors will pay farmers Rwf342 per liter. The regulation of prices, however, comes as the local market suffers from not just a price hike but insucient supply as milk kiosks in Kigali run low on stock.

“We get milk supply from our supplier only a few days a week, sometimes just twice a week. We used to get it every morning but since milk is what we sell, the shop is closed most of the time,” said Diane Umulisa, a milk kiosk owner in Kigali.


While local milk production has grown to reach 932,000 tons per year in 2020, the production flauctuates during the dry season that runs from July to August.

During the dry season, areas that supply milk in bulk produce less. For instance, the Nyagatare district, which supplies 36 percent of the nation's milk production, decreased from 100,000 liters collected per day to less than 30,000 liters.

In previous years, farm gate prices were lower in the northern and western districts where dry seasons are not as worse. In 2021, while a liter of unprocessed milk cost Rwf400, it would cost Rwf150 a liter, and Rwf180 at milk collection centers in Burera district. Today, the price jumped from Rwf200 in April to the current Rwf350 per liter in Burera district.

This is the case while local milk demand has been on a drastic increase over the years, mostly due to the government's campaigns against malnutrition with free milk provided in schools and hospitals.

According to the National Agricultural Exports Board (NAEB) data, milk consumption per capita increased from 40 liters in 2012 to the current 72 liters per capita.

Locally produced milk is expected to supply local retailers, dairy processing factories, and government campaigns such as the “One cup of Milk per Child” and school feeding program that provides milk to some schools. Rwanda aims to reach milk consumption of 120 liters per capita.

As the local milk market suffers, Rwanda’s exported milk has also decreased by half. Milk exports decreased from 8.4 million tons exported in 2019-2020 to 2.4 million tons exported in 2021. Revenues have as well decreased from $5 million to $4 million.

Rwanda exports all unprocessed milk to the Democratic Republic of Congo and the rest to Uganda and Kenya, according to NAEB data.