Annual milk production in the country reached more than one million tonnes (one billion litres) in 2023, representing significant improvement in the dairy sector, according to a 2022/2023 annual report by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI).
The implication is that Rwanda made strides towards achieving the target of more than 1.2 million tonnes in the financial year 2023/2024. Milk production steadily increased from more than 121,400 tonnes in 2005, to more than 372,600 tonnes in 2010, and 891,326 tonnes in 2020.
Talking about the main drivers of milk production, having reached 1,061,301 tonnes in 2023, the Deputy Director General in charge of Animal Resources Development at Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB), Solange Uwituze, told The New Times that the rising production is associated with various interventions in boosting the dairy sector.
She pointed to the practice of zero grazing, forage cultivation and preservation, livestock water harvesting and storage, livestock insurance and enhanced dairy cattle husbandry practices as some of the interventions.
Uwituze said “this [increasing milk production] means enhanced milk availability for milk processing establishments, enhanced milk consumption per capita, [and] increased income for dairy farmers.”
Such an increase in milk productivity, she said, signifies reliability of supply to the dairy industry, including meeting the demand of a milk powder factory located in Nyagatare District, Eastern Province. The new plant has the capacity to process 500,000 litres of liquid milk (into 50,000 kilos of powdered milk) per day.
According to data from MINAGRI, more than 81 million litres of milk were supplied to milk processing plants in 2022/2023. This accounts for about 8 per cent of the total milk produced in the same fiscal year. The implication is that most of the milk was supplied to the market or consumers without factory-level processing.
Information from Inyange Industries, Rwanda’s leading food processing company, shows that the Nyagatare-based milk powder factory will have a combined capacity to process 650,000 litres a day given that it will have another line for processing 150,000 litres for ultra-high temperature processing (UHT) milk.
During the 19th National Dialogue Council (Umushyikirano) on January 23, Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente said that construction of the factory in Nyagatare District is near completion and its inauguration is planned in April.
“The growing milk production is an indicator of the Rwandan dairy farmer’s capacity to supply milk to the milk powder plant under construction,” Uwituze said.
On the current state of Rwanda’s cattle breed and population, the RAB official said that it is more than 1.6 million, of which 16 per cent are local breeds, and 84 per cent improved breeds [obtained through genetic improvement].
“The noticeable proportion of the current milk production is attributable to improved breeds. Nevertheless, researches are going on to enhance the production of local breeds,” she observed.
André Rwayitare, the Managing Director of Ingabo Dairy, a firm based in Nyabihu District, Western Province, told The New Times that increased milk production over the years is attributed to the introduction of highly productive cattle breeds compared to traditional ones, provision of cows under One Cow per Poor Family Programme locally known as Girinka, infrastructure such as roads, as well as the progress made in agro-processing which improved market availability for dairy farmers and encouraged investments in the sector.
His firm makes dairy products including cheese and yoghurt.
“I started with processing 3,00 litres of milk per day just before 2011. But now, I process 5,000 litres of milk per day, which means that my production increased 17 times,” Rwayitare said, pointing out that milk is available for him to double his current capacity if he gets finance to buy machinery.
Given that milk production fluctuates depending on rainy season and dry season – with abundant yields during the former and shortage of supply during the latter – Uwituze said that intervention to sustain the production of milk in both seasons are ongoing.
The interventions, she said, include support to farmers to cultivate and store forage.
The support includes subsidies to forage seeds, training of farmers on appropriate techniques for forage storage, as well enhanced water access with subsidies for dam sheets and boreholes in drought affected areas.