A Kenyan parliamentary committee has accused the Ministry of Agriculture of overseeing the collapse of the dairy industry as the local market continues to be flooded with cheap imports from Uganda despite the country producing enough milk for consumption and exportation.
At a meeting with Livestock Principal Secretary Harry Kimutai on Thursday at Parliament Buildings, members of the National Assembly’s Committee on Agriculture want the government to ban further importation of milk.
The team’s chairman Adan Haji (Mandera South), Mr Gabriel Kago (Githunguri), Mr John Mutunga (Tigania West) and Ms Florence Mutua (Busia Woman Rep) said that the imports are not necessary.
Documents presented by Mr Kimutai to the committee showed that the country is currently producing 5.6 billion litres of milk and consumes 5.17 billion litres, meaning that there is surplus of about 430 million litres.
Despite this, the country imports nearly 120 million litres from the East African Community (EAC) member states and 2 million litres from non-EAC members.
About 12 million litres is imported from Uganda per month, approximately 30 per cent of the current average milk intakes by Kenyan milk processors.
Although the PS acknowledged that this is a significant proportion of the milk market and therefore, a source of concern to the Kenyan farmer and the dairy industry, he said the cost of local production is to blame.
“Uganda seems to have a comparative advantage in producing milk at a significantly lower cost than Kenya due to favorable weather across the year and use of open grazing systems in milk production,” Mr Kimutai said.
Currently, milk is bought from farmers for as little as KSh18 (Shs650) per litre and the cost of production is at KSh30 (Shs1000) per litre.
During the meeting, Mr Kago suggested that Kenyan farmers should be paid KSh15 more for a litre of milk. The suggestion was unanimously agreed by the committee members. This will ultimately increase the minimum price per litre to KSh45 (Shs1600), which is 50 percent of the consumer price.
At the same meeting, Mr Kimutai surprised the team when he admitted that he could not tell whether the imported milk is actually produced in Uganda.
“Uganda has no capacity to produce what her people consume and at the same time export,” Mr Haji said as he revealed that individuals from the government have made it “extremely” difficult for the committee to conduct a verification tour in Uganda.
Mr Kago, whose constituency is among the largest producers of milk, said that Uganda produces about 67 million litres of milk which is not enough for its consumption.
However, citing the 2018 statistical figures by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Dr Francis Mwesigye explains that between 2002 and 2016, milk output in Uganda increased from 0.75 billion litres to 1.6 billion litres. Uganda has a target to produce 3.3b litres of milk in 2020.
Ugandan milk importation started to increase in 2017 following the signing in 2005 of the East African Common Market Protocol, which provides for free movement of goods and services within the EAC member states of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.
Though the PS had initially admitted that he could not do anything to slow the Ugandan imports due to the EAC protocol, he claimed that he had urged the Ministry of Trade and Industry to intervene.