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Tanzania milk prices collapse after Brookside exit

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Brookside worker Lilian Njoki conducts a product quality test at a plant in Ruiru, Kenya. The firm says Tanzania does not have adequate supplies to feed an UHT plant. Photo/ANTHONY KAMAU

Brookside worker Lilian Njoki conducts a product quality test at a plant in Ruiru, Kenya. The firm says Tanzania does not have adequate supplies to feed an UHT plant. Photo/ANTHONY KAMAU 

By CATHERINE RIUNGU

Posted  Saturday, May 2  2009 at  12:42
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Farmers in northern Tanzania have appealed to the government to allow a Kenyan firm to resume milk collection.

The appeal comes in the wake of a fall in prices of raw milk from Tsh400 ($0.3) to Tsh150 ($0.1) a litre, and rising levels of unprocessed produce.

Tanzania slapped a ban on the region’s largest milk processor, Brookside, six months ago, stopping it from collecting the commodity and processing it in Kenya.

It directed that all milk produced in Tanzania must be processed locally.

Authorities accused Brookside of contravening the 2004 agreement stipulating that it would rehabilitate the defunct state-owned Tanzania Dairies — on which it spent about Tsh2 billion to revamp — and put up an ultra heat treated milk processing plant.

An Arusha-based group, Kisube Women Dairy Farmers, wants Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda “to visit them to see how they have been robbed of their livelihood as a result of the government’s decision to ban the Kenyan firm from buying raw milk from them”.

“It was hard then and it is still hard for us to come to terms with the death of the only market; caused by our own government,” complained Devota Tumainiel Marandu, a leader of the group.

At the time of the closure in November 2008, Brookside was collecting 6,000 litres of milk — going to 13,500 in the peak season — from 2,000 farmers. The farmers earned about Tsh2.9 million ($2,230) daily from this milk.

This was a big improvement from the 1,000 litres that Brookside was collecting daily in 2004, but far below the 60,000 litres required for a UHT facility, whose set up cost is estimated at $100 million.

Marandu said the decision has pushed the price of raw milk to Tsh150 ($0.8) a litre, down from Tsh400 ($2) a litre.

Also affected is Tanga Fresh, which used to supply excess milk amounting to 30,000 litres a week to Brookside. “The supply line has been cut,” said Al Noor Hussein, spokesman of Tanga Fresh.

In a plea to the Tanzania Revenue Authority, Brookside says the country does not have adequate milk supplies to feed an UHT plant and has been working to build up the quantities; a feat it hoped would be achieved by the end of this year.

Not only is this unlikely to be achieved as the processor and the government seek a middle ground, but farmers have also been sucked into the feud and want the government to end the stalemate.

Available statistics indicate that only 10 per cent of raw milk produced in Tanzania (1.7bn litres) a year, is processed.

Tanzania has nearly 19 million head of cattle, among the highest in Africa.

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