Over 400 dairy farmers are up in arms protesting plans by the Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) to 100 percent regulate the dairy the industry in Kenya.
The farmers feel that the plan is hatched and set to benefit one player, the Brookside industry associated with the first family.
The plan, inscribed in the Dairy Regulations 2019, is set to criminalise the sale of milk directly from farmers to consumers. The regulations require that farmers sell their milk to recognised processors before it is distributed to the consumer.
“Dairy Regulations 2019 will force him (farmer) to take his milk to a cooling and pooling facility twice a day which might be a very long distance away. If he is lucky he will only spend Ksh100 for each return trip, spending Ksh200 in transport expenses alone for his milk to reach the collection point. Price paid for his supplied milk will be around Ksh25 per liter, if he is lucky enough to get paid at all. He is now left with a mere Ksh50 daily,” say the farmers.
According to the farmers, one small-scale farmer can produce at most 12 litres a day, of which two litres are consumed by the family and 10 sold to neighbours at a price of Ksh40 per litre. This translates to Ksh400 per day and Ksh12,000 per month.
“If by just trying to survive he continuous to sell his raw milk directly to his neighbours this fact alone by Dairy Regulations 2019 definition makes him into a criminal liable to prosecution and penalties of up to Ksh500,000 and years in jail,” they add.
The farmers say that the regulations were set up without consultations with the farmers and the consumers, hence it was set to benefit Brookside company, which has whitewashed the market by buying most dairy companies.
“Provision should be made that selling of raw milk directly from the farmer to the end consumer may be permitted if his location/circumstances don’t allow easy and effective other use or collection in a pooling and cooling facility,” they propose.
According to the farmers, 70 percent of dairy business is informal (unregulated), due to lack of enough industries to cater for all farmers.
To them, Kenyans should be consulted in a referendum or opinion poll whether they would prefer to use exclusively expensive but ‘safe’ fully processed milk or would prefer to also be allowed to buy raw milk directly from the dairy farmer to boil for their tea or for their children.
In one of the consultative meeting where they were informed about the regulations, it is reported that there were only five representatives for the farmers, who were most probably compromised.
“The phrase that truly hurt us most during the long hours listening to the various presentations was the absolute need to ban consumption of “milk that continues to harm our people” and that the general public must be protected from a product that is portrayed as being more lethal and dangerous than cars, tobacco, alcohol, sugar and others,” says one of the farmers.
Most of the large commercial dairy farms have given up over the years due to unsustainability. In the
last 30 years, attempts at commercial processing by both dairy farmers and processors with intakes
ranging from a couple of hundred to 10,000 liters per day have given up and/or failed.
Currently, there is not a single fully operational milk processing facility in all the coast making it hard for farmers to comply with the regulation.
The same is replicated in most rural parts of Kenya, with pooling and cooling stations in remote locations dying down.
The farmers are now asking KDB to review the move, and ensure an open market just like in the other economic sectors instead of developing regulations that would benefit one player, Brookside while hurting consumers and other players.