|SPORE Bulletin of the CTA No. 66 (CTA Spore, 1996, 16 p.)|
Demand for milk and dairy products is growing fast in Africa. Simultaneously, dairy imports are becoming less available and more expensive. This provides an opportunity for increasing local production and processing capacity, both of which can offer many benefits to national economies. However, the route to greater self-sufficiency must be guided by appropriate policies.
It is well known that consumer demand for dairy products is appreciably higher in urban areas than in rural areas. As the cities and towns of Africa are growing rapidly predictions are that demand for dairy products will increase by 70% during the period 1990-2010 (Winrock 1992). In the past, large quantities of dairy products could be imported at relatively low costs from countries where agricultural policies favoured milk production m excess of national requirements, and where processing and export costs were also subsidized. Now that changes in policy in the KU, Australia and New Zealand have curtailed or removed subsidies from dairy production, importing nations are faced with scarcer and more costly imports or the option of developing their own dairy sector.
Most East African countries have the potential to produce the enough milk to satisfy domestic demand: some in-West Africa could also meet a useful proportion of national needs. The development of a sound dairy industry offers many advantages, the most obvious being a substantial saving of scarce foreign exchange currently committed to imports. Milk production and processing are labour intensive activities, so there is also the benefit of an increase in employment, especially in the rural areas where-processing as well as production are usually carried out. The use of previously wasted crop residues for cattle feed and the greater integration of livestock with crop production can increase the overall output per hectare, leading to more sustainable systems (see Spore 58 Are beasts a burden.?). Despite these factors, the dairy sector has been neglected or has suffered from policies favouring low cost imports of milk powder for reconstitution into liquid milk or processing into dairy products in large plants sited in major urban centres.
An alternative way forward
Smallholders in most African countries produce most of the milk but, except in Kenya, an insignificant proportion of this local production goes through the formal market. As a result, there is little or no coordination of production, bulking, transport or marketing. Distance, poor roads, transport, and lack of cooling facilities in rural areas have made it impossible for many producers to keep fresh milk long enough to reach potential consumers or processors in urban centres in a fit condition.
One option that has been tried in several urban centres is to reduce transport needs and time by bringing cows close to consumers, and by establishing dairy units within the suburbs. One of the most successful examples of such perturban dairy development has been in Kampala; Uganda. Here, in the aftermath of years of civil strife, the FAO together with the World Bank and DANIDA, provided the injection of funds, livestock, equipment and training to develop dairy units in close proximity to the city. So successful was the project that in seven years Kampala's dairy needs went from 90% imported (1986) to 90% locally produced (1992).
The disadvantages of such a system are: large quantities of bulky cattle fodder have to be transported over long distances from rural areas; large volumes of water are required: manure has to be disposed of with the inevitable risks of pollution, odour and rodents close to high density human habitation. These problems can be avoided by encouraging the production of milk by smallholders in the rural areas where fodder is more readily available, where manure can be used to advantage on crop land and where there is little or no risk of public nuisance.
Fresh and locally produced
Development will not progress in rural areas until adequate roads provide communication with centres of population. Once roads provide all-weather access, transport can be organized. But first the milk producers must see to it that each farm's milk production is brought to a central collecting point for bulking and onward transport.
Most rural areas remain without electricity and without refrigeration or large volumes of naturally cold water for cooling; fresh milk starts to curdle and clot in three hours. This is too short a time for milk to pass from farm to collecting point to consumer. A new development promoted by FAO is the use of the enzyme lactoperoxydase, which can double the time taken by un-cooled milk to sour. The enzyme has proved effective and safe for consumers, especially when used as recommended by trained staff who add the lactoperoxydase in carefully controlled quantities to the milk as it is bulked at the collection centres. Milk thus treated remains fresh until it reaches a centre where electricity is available for refrigeration, and where it can either be packed into cartons or sachets for sale to consumers, or go for processing into dairy products.
One area of concern that remains is the sale of raw milk which is often the only product that is affordable to low income consumers. If milk is to be a safe, healthy and nutritious product it is essential that all producers are registered and inspected to ensure adequate standards of hygiene and good quality control in production and transport operations. Once again, the siting of small dairy processing facilities in rural centres can be shown to provide advantages over large processing plants in cities and large towns: the distance between producers and processors is kept short, the lack of refrigeration on farms is no longer problematic and employment and industry is encouraged in small rural centres where it can help counteract urban migration.
Awareness needs to be aroused among government and donor policy-makers to direct the appropriate support and assistance towards developing the local production and processing capacity of the agricultural and agro-industrial sectors in Africa to their full potential.