The price of milk has gone beyond the reach of not a few Nigerians and it is instantiated by its absence in many shopping lists which potentially could compound the country’s already poor milk consumption per capita which is put at less than 10 litres/per annum which is far below the recommended 210 litres by the World Health Organisation (WHO) .
It goes without saying that, the country has a suboptimal milk production capacity of about 600,000 metric tonnes (mt) in the face of a huge milk demand of about 1.7 million mt annually. As a consequence, about 1.5 billion dollars is spent annually on importation primarily to bridge the gaping deficit which effectively places the country as a lucrative destination for the world biggest milk producers/processors.
Expectedly, it has remained a leading cause of huge haemorrhage of the country’s foreign exchange. For the most part, the milk that strewn the country’s market are entirely reconstituted owing to the fact that processors import largely powdered milk.
The impact of the staggering cost of the importation sparked the backward integration initiative by the government which ostensibly was to spur domestic production. Certainly, it is in light of this that government once declared that importation will cease in 2022 and already, in Q1 2022 milk importation had gulped about 28 billion Naira. Though, success stories have been recorded with not few companies acting in keeping with the policy. However, the government stated target of an annual 1.6 billion litres production would require quite a lot of doing.
It defies logic that the massive cattle population is not sufficient in putting the country in the league of top milk producer in Africa. On the cattle stock, Nigeria and Kenya are almost on a par, with 20.7 and 21.7 respectively according to Statista- a German based data company.
Kenya has effectively harnessed its cattle population and traditional milk drinking culture in making the country a shinning case in point of a vibrant dairy industry. It has amassed well about 5 million dairy cows in becoming one of the top milk producing countries in Africa and with the highest milk consumption per capita at 110 litres/year.
It’s my considered view that the vibrant sub-sector is a product of right policies and institutional environment enabled by commitment. Though, still fraught with challenges; Kenya nevertheless provides object lessons.
No doubt, it has been a long journey for Kenya. The market liberalization of 1992 created a path to the entry of new players as the market opened up for competition. According to pundits the industry recorded increased production prior to the liberalization epoch not least between the onset of the 1980s – early 90s which easily was imputed to the subsidies and availability of a suite of farmers support services in Breeding and Artificial insemination (A.I), health and extension services, input supply. And also, the active participation of the private and development agencies.
Today, the industry contributes about 14% to the country’s agricultural sector GDP and 4% to the national GDP. It produces about 5 billion litres of milk annually on the back of small holder dairy farmers and it is expected to produce 12 billion litres of milk annually by 2030.
It has also brought a tad of parity in gender income distribution due to the number of women which are known to be active participant in the value chain and in addition to being a veritable poverty reduction strategy. According to Kenya Diary Board, the sub-sector provides a source of livelihood to about 1.8 million households.
Interesting, in 2022 the Kenya through one of its illustrious processors the Kenya creameries company (KCC) struck a lucrative deal in early 2022 with Azim milk company based in Oman for the supply of milk which is an eloquent proof of its capacity.
By and large, the coalescence of the smallholder’s dairy farmers into cooperatives that matured into a strong force in the industry is key to the change in the dairy industry fortune. An important takeaway is that Artificial Insemination (A.I) played a singularly significant role in the Kenya dairy story. It has a long history in Kenya which dates back the 1930s.
Successive government were intentional about the future and development of the sub-sector resulting into massive and aggressive A.I programme. The service was also liberalized bringing about accessibility, increased in the number of service providers and technicians.
To this end, a massive A.I roll out is the way to go in changing Nigeria’s dairy narrative with other support services in place. No progress would be sustainably recorded in expanding the dairy industry with cows producing a paltry 1.5-2 litres of milk/daily! The cattle stock needs to be upgraded; an enhanced milk productivity is reliant upon the genetic composition of the cow.
Again, it needs a comprehensive ranching development and transformation plan in place and strong support system that would culminate to a vibrant dairy value chain. Interestingly, efforts are ongoing by not few private entities and development agencies especially with the dominant smallholder farmers which are consequential.
Clearly, the journey to making the country self-reliant is still a way off. Of course, fixing the dairy sub-sector is not a marathon but then the exercise and preparation to put the country in active mode needs to be instituted.
Ungbo writes from Abuja via [email protected]