Rwanda: Milk Shortages, Price Hikes Bite as Drought Takes Its Toll

Pascal Dukuzumuremyi currently pays over 60 per cent more on milk than he used to about two months ago.

The resident of Gasabo District is one of the many milk consumers feeling the pinch of the limited milk supply, which officials attributed to drought effects on dairy farming output.

“I have to pay Rwf500 on the same quantity of milk I used to buy at Rwf300. This is increasing the cost of living for me, and hindering my ability to make savings. But, because milk is my favorite drink, I accept to incur such a cost,” he told The New Times.

Prices of unprocessed fresh milk went up from Rwf400 a litre about two months ago to Rwf600 currently in some parts of Kigali.

Workers on duty at a milk collection centre in Gicuimbi District. Photo: Courtesy.

For processed fresh milk by Inyange Industries Ltd, the price of a half-litre (or 500ml) pack increased by 60 per cent, from Rwf500 to Rwf800 at present, in some parts of Kigali.

Some retailers told The New Times that they are buying a box containing a dozen half-litre milk packs of Inyange milk at Rwf8,000 from distributors, up from Rwf5,000 previously.

“Apart from the milk being expensive, the supply is so limited that sometimes we lack it,” one trader told The New Times on condition of anonymity.

However, Anita Umuhire, the Deputy Managing Director at Inyange told The New Times that the firm did not increase prices of its milk, pointing out that a box of a dozen half-litre milk packs goes for Rwf4,700 to distributors.

Normally, she said, the end consumer should not pay more than Rwf500 for a half-litre milk pack.

But, she said that some traders might be exploiting the milk supply shortage by speculating prices to get more profits from consumers.

“Some traders are inflating Inyange milk prices to get higher proceeds,” she said, pointing out that prices are influenced by the forces of demand and supply,” she said.

Milk production, supply drop

Solange Uwituze, Deputy Director General in charge of Animal Resources Development at Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Board (RAB) told The New Times that the observed shortage of milk supply is mainly attributable to the drought (characterised by the scarcity of forage and water for dairy cattle).

The drought period does significantly affect milk production particularly in Eastern Province, she indicated.

She said that the current data on milk aggregation indicate that the average quantity of milk collected from 15 milk collection centres (MCCs) in Nyagatare (a major milk shed in the country), has decreased from 80,000-100,000 litres a day during the rainy season (March-April) to reach 39,900 litres a day (July).

This is the same issue that was exposed by Gahiga Gashumba, Chairperson of Nyagatare Dairy Farmers’ Union who told The New Times that their milk production declined by about 70 percent because of drought.

Umuhire said Inyange Industries was receiving 80,000 litres of milk per day from dairy farmers in Nyagatare District during the rainy season, but that drastically dropped to 20,000 litres a day during this dry season.

“Our milk supply has reduced by 75 percent. That is why the impact has been obviously felt on the market,” she said.

Ensuring sustainability

Inyange Industries is setting up a powdered milk factory in Nyagatare District, with a capacity to process 500,000 liters of milk per day. Investment into the factory until its completion is estimated at Rwf30 billion, according to Umuhire.

Based on data from RAB, Rwanda produced an average of 2.4 million litres of milk per day as of 2021. A big proportion of it is sold unprocessed to consumers, while only around 10 per cent of it is processed by dairy industrial units.

Uwituze said that important efforts to increase milk production even during the dry season are being deployed “and we are confident that the demand of the milk powder plant shall be met”.

In order to address forage scarcity, Uwituze said that dairy farmers have been mobilised for the forage cultivation and storage in preparation for drought, adding that the Government subsidises the costs of forage seeds.

She indicated that during the fiscal year 2021/22, 4,558 Ha of forage were cultivated.

Regarding water scarcity, Uwituze said that efforts are being deployed to enhance the access to water in dairy farms particularly in Nyagatare milk shed.

These include, among others, the support to dairy farmers for acquiring dam-sheets for water storage on a subsidised scheme, and the construction of boreholes to enhance farmer’s accessibility to water [for cattle consumption].

For Gashumba, “there is a need for more efforts to ensure availability of fodder and water for cows for sustainable milk production.”

Meanwhile, Uwituze said the possibility of enhancing milk collection and distribution in other milk sheds has been considered.

It is in this regard that feeder roads in Gishwati milk shed are being rehabilitated to allow a smooth collection of milk.

Based on the current capacity of the existing infrastructures, she said, the rehabilitation of Gishwati feeder roads will allow the aggregation of additional 67,500 litres of milk a day.

She pointed out that this production shall rapidly grow as the milk market is now granted thanks to the milk powder plant under construction in Nyagatare.

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