The Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) has said that the country needs a strong dairy regulatory framework at the national and county levels to ensure milk and milk products comply with quality and safety requirements.
The regulator has indicated this will also protect consumers, enhance private sector participation, boost investment in the dairy industry and promote trade in milk and milk products, not just in Kenya, but in the external markets as well.
Speaking in Nakuru after public participation on the Draft Dairy Industry Bill, 2023, KDB Managing Director Dr. Margaret Kibogy called for aligning of dairy regulations to international standards for agricultural trade arrangements as enshrined under World Trade Organization, which were ratified in 1995.
Dr Kibogy observed that the current legislation regulating the dairy subsector enacted in 1958 was not in harmony with modern farming practices and technological advancements and recognized cow milk only.
The Draft Dairy Industry Bill, 2023 now also gives recognition to sheep, goat and camel milk.
She said the proposed law aims at improving the productivity and competitiveness of dairy products, increasing domestic consumption of milk and milk products, transforming the dairy industry into a net exporter to the regional and global markets, and re-orienting milk processing
The proposed bill, she added, was also geared towards encouraging locals to venture into commercial dairy farming.
The bill seeks to establish a legal backing for the dairy value-addition chain, and will also give way to the establishing of a corporation to coordinate activities in the sector.
Dr Kibogy stated that milk which is primarily produced by smallholder dairy farmers under three main production systems of zero grazing, semi-zero grazing, and open grazing — is in high demand mainly due to population growth, increasing urbanization, and rising incomes.
To meet this high demand, the government has given priority to the industry in national strategic plans such as the Dairy Master Plan to guide the development of the dairy sector up to 2030.
She explained that the sanitary and phytosanitary standards agreement relates to regulations around labeling requirements, nutrition claims and concerns, quality and packaging regulations.
If the bill is passed into law, it will also address microbiological contamination of milk, allowable veterinary drug residues, permitted food additives and packaging requirements.
She added, “There is need to safeguard food safety and promote quality assurance to consumers here and beyond borders. It is with this in mind that the Bill was drafted with the objective of strengthening the dairy regulatory framework for the benefit of dairy business operators, consumers, and the public at large.”
Dr Kibogy noted that without adequate controls, milk and milk products can be a source of microorganisms which cause serious diseases such as brucellosis, tuberculosis and cholera.
She expressed optimism about the industry’s expansion given that more people, especially young Kenyans, are taking up the business.
“Kenya’s dairy industry has been growing at an estimated rate of five per cent annually with milk production currently at 5.2 billion litres a year.
Kibogy said about 1.8 million smallholder farmers have their livelihood pegged on dairy production.
“Kenya’s dairy sector contributes 4pc, 12pc and 44pc of the national, agriculture and livestock GDP respectively,” she said.
According to the 2020 Kenya National Bureau of Statistics Food Balance Sheet report, the consumption of milk and its related products had the highest per capita consumption (93.3 kilos) in Kenya, followed by maize (69.5kg), wheat (41.3kg) and vegetables (32.6kg)
Livestock Production Acting Director, Nakuru County, Virginia Ngunjiri, said the devolved unit had set 11 bulking and chilling plants and organized farmers into cooperatives in a move intended to raise the financial capability of farmers and safeguard milk for the market.
She noted that the absence of adequate machinery had led to an increase of milk hawking with some informal traders adulterating their milk with substances not suitable for human consumption.
“As a county we have been promoting the chilling of milk so that the farmers are able to bulk chill to reduce the post-harvest losses to the farmers,” said Ngunjiri.
According to Ngunjiri, new milk handling technologies have already been launched across the county to boost preservation and bulking of milk thus boosting farmers’ profits.
The cooling plants, she added, also help dairy farmers to store their milk and sell it to processors at a good price and at their convenience.