Pearl Dairy, the producer of Lato Milk, has said it will cooperate with the Kenyan authorities to resolve claims that the company smuggled milk into the country at the close of last year.
At least 3,000 bags of powdered milk and packets of Lato milk were seized on December 27 by Kenyan authorities on claims that the milk had been smuggled into the country without paying taxes.
Mr Amit Sagar, the Pearl Dairy chief executive officer, yesterday told Daily Monitor in a statement yesterday that they were ready to cooperate with the Kenyan government to resolve the impasse.
“We are cooperating with all government agencies to provide the necessary documents to confirm the above to put to an end to the false reports circulating,” he said.
Mr Sagar also refuted claims that Pearl Dairy imports and repackages its milk products, saying: “100 per cent of our milk is produced and processed in Uganda. We do not reconstitute any milk powder to make our UHT milk products.”
All of the company’s milk, he said, is sourced from more than 10,000 smallholder farmers in western Uganda, which is later processed in Mbarara and put on the local market with some exported specifically to Kenya.
The consignment, which was allegedly smuggled into Kenya from Uganda through the Busia border post on December 27, according to the Kenya Directorate of Criminal Investigations, was seized in Eastleigh, Nairobi County.
Detectives from the Anti-Counterfeit Agency early this week, according to Citizen TV, raided a warehouse - Musty Distribution Limited- on the Meru-Maua road where they recovered milk suspected to have been illegally imported into Kenya.
The warehouse has since been secured and cordoned off pending further investigations.
The 3,000, 25-kilogramme bags contained powdered milk, allegedly packed in Lato labelled packs.
However, according to The Standard, a Kenya media outlet, there is an ongoing battle in which Kenya is targeting Ugandan milk imports said to be cheaper and outcompeting those produced in Kenya.
Last year, Daily Monitor reported about a Kenyan government delegation that had visited Uganda to determine whether milk imports into Kenya are made in Uganda or imported from third parties.
The move followed a surge in volumes of imported milk purportedly from Uganda amid rising complaints that the country had no capacity to export such huge quantities to Kenya.
Data presented to Kenya Parliament in 2019 showed that milk imported from within East African Community member states had hit 110.7 million litres between January and September from just three million litres in 2016. Most of the imports to Kenya were sourced from Uganda.
In 2018, The East African reported that Ugandan milk products had become popular in Kenya, especially targeting the low income earners.
Uganda is a key exporter of milk and milk products, with the value of exports rising from near zero 10 years ago to about $80m in 2018.
Uganda produces enough milk
According to Steven Aikiriza, an SNV dairy expert, Uganda produces enough milk with only 33 per cent of the country’s milk being processed.
Much of the country’s processed milk is exported to Kenya given that Ugandans consume less milk. “We export more and consume less. Uganda’s milk has competitive demand in Kenya because of its good quality yet it is cheaper than that produced in Kenya. It is true we export plenty of milk powder and liquid milk,” he says, adding that “Kenyans can’t believe that we have enough milk for export when our per capita milk consumption is so low. We need to grow our own local consumption capacities.”