Rwandan government has banned the export of unprocessed milk, following reports of unregulated milk flows from the country to the Democratic Republic of Congo, as the problems between producers and processors escalate.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (Minagri) issued a directive barring farmers and informal milk dealers from selling across the borders.
“No raw milk should be exported any more, and all milk for export should be from recognised dairies,” the directive read.
The order directly affects Rubavu, Rutsiro, Nyabihu and Ngororero districts, all from the Western Province and bordering DR Congo.
All milk dealers and transporters are now supposed to form co-operatives to boost milk collection and transportation.
Anyone transporting milk will also be required to have a certificate of origin issued by a milk collection centre.
The certificate will show the full names of the milk transporter and destination, test results of the quantity and quality of the milk, as well as the full names and signature of the quality control technician.
The directive comes at the height of a clash between farmers and processors over milk standards. Farmers who report high rejection rates have found a more predictable market in the DR Congo, thus starving local processors of supply.
Statistics from Minagri show that between 30,000 litres and 35,000 litres of raw milk cross the Rwanda-DR Congo border daily, creating a serious shortage for Rwandan milk processors.
“Mukamira Dairy, with a daily processing capacity of 80,000 litres, has recently been getting only 10,000 litres of raw milk a day,” said Michel Ngarambe, the head of Milk Produce in Minagri.
Top sneaking milk out of the country
According to Minagri, Burera Diary only gets half of the 10,000 litres of raw milk it needs daily.
Agriculture Minister Geraldine Mukeshimana held a meeting with stakeholders in western Rwanda, and ordered them to stop sneaking milk out of the country.
Those who attended the meeting were the Governor of Western Province, Alphonse Munyentwali, district officials, milk processing industry representatives, milk traders, and dairy farmers mainly from the Gishwati zone its environs.
All stakeholders, including security organs and the local administration, were told to enforce the directive.
“Non-compliance will attract penalties, although we do not want it to get to this,” said Beatrice Uwumuremyi, the head of regulation at Minagri.
The Ministry has instructed local authorities in the four districts to agree on the penalties for violation of the directive.
Milk producers and dealers are yet to officially record their grievances, but have in the past complained about the high standards demanded of processors, which results in their raw milk being rejected for being of poor quality.
Minagri alleges that some dealers dilute milk with water, then export the adulterated product to DR Congo.
“Many dealers prefer the DR Congo market because the clients there pay more, and in cash,” said Muhizi Muheto, a resident of Gisenyi.
Suppliers of raw milk to processing plants get between Rwf150 and Rwf180 per litre in Rwanda, while buyers from DR Congo are willing to pay more.