Dairy farmers from Murang’a county are a happy lot, thanks to a dairy programme aimed at ensuring they get proper marketing channels for higher returns. This is after the county government stepped in to save the farmers from exploitative middlemen. Currently, about 70 per cent of the milk produced in the county is being sold in the informal market while only the 30 percent is sold in the proper channels. The county government which has already purchased 35 milk coolers for every ward has engaged farmers in contract farming with the milk processors that will help them collectively sell their produce to the highest bidder.
The county executive member for agro-marketing Edward Muiruri said dairy farmers have for a long time been exploited by middlemen and adversely affected by fluctuating market prices. He noted due to lack of proper marketing channels the farmers have been forced to deal with private milk processors who are purchasing a litre of milk between Sh28 and Sh30 explaining that this has been caused by lack of appropriate competition among buyers.
Murang’a County deploys 35 milk coolers in all wards
“We are working towards streamlining the dairy market in efforts to stabilise the prices and in return create more income for the farmer,” said Muiruri. He said that the milk processors shall have to negotiate the prices with farmers who are supposed to organise themselves in groups and enter into a contract. “A contract is a legal biding document and this shall cushion the farmers from any exploitation” he explained. Some milk buyers have already raised their prices to Sh50 per litre and this is a good starting point,” he added.
Muiruri, however, assured the private milk processors that the intervention of county government will not bring unfair competition in the dairy sector but the actors will be in a position to benefit as they will be able to get milk from the farmers’ cooperative at agreed prices. He lamented that milk production is way below average saying despite the fact that most dairy farmers in the county have good quality exotic cows estimated to be 240, 000, milk production is about 120, 000 litres per day.
He observed that the low milk production is due to poor management of the livestock but assured the government commitment to addressing the situation. “As county government we are committed to improve the dairy sector in the whole county and ensure milk production hits above 600, 000 litres per day,” he said. Muiruri said by supporting the dairy cooperatives, farmers will have an opportunity to engage into contract with processors a step which will ensure milk prices remain stable.
He said after commissioning the coolers the county government will also support the cooperatives by paying their rent expenses and also train their workers on issues concerning dairy farming in order to improve service delivery. “We are planning to ensure farmers get services of artificial insemination at Sh500 contrary to Sh2,500 which they are paying currently to get the service,” he explained. The executive secretary also revealed that the county government is planning to set up a factory with aim to produce cheap animal feeds for the dairy farmers. He pointed out that his group has already entered into a contract with a private institution which is buying their milk at Sh50 per kilo where they sell 900 litres per day.