News and updates on research on livestock value chains by the International Livestock Research Institute and partners

Monday, May 24, 2010

Counting the losses: Regional project quantifies milk spoilage in East Africa

A regional dairy industry development project is generating research data to quantify the levels of milk losses due to spoilage in East Africa. The East Africa Dairy Development project (EADD) is involved in research to assess the levels and causes of milk spoilage experienced by informal milk traders in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. The analysis of the data collected will be used as an empirical basis for interventions aimed at reducing losses and improving milk quality in the informal dairy sector of the respective countries.

Preliminary results show that over 75% of traders sourcing milk from farmers report milk loss due to spoilage, and those losing milk report losses of between 17 and 23 litres per week due to spoilage, occasioned largely by unhygienic milk handling and inadequate milk cooling systems. Other causes of milk spoilage include adulteration and mixing of evening and morning milk. Factors that exacerbate the problem are delayed milk delivery, erratic electricity supply at milk cooling plants and low levels of training on hygienic milk handling among traders. Data analysis is ongoing to evaluate the losses in income experienced by farmers and informal milk traders as a result of milk spoilage.

The data generated by EADD builds on findings from an earlier study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2003-04. At the time, the problem of milk losses had long been acknowledged to exist in Eastern Africa. However, there was a gap in knowledge with regard to the quantities of milk lost along the producer-to-consumer supply chain. To fill this gap, FAO led rapid appraisal studies aimed at quantifying post-harvest milk and dairy product losses in Eastern Africa and the Near East.

The studies carried out in Ethiopia, Kenya, Syria, Tanzania and Uganda represented the first-ever systematic attempt to accurately quantify milk losses in these countries. The country reports formed the basis of two synthesis reports prepared by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) that identified the types, levels and causes of milk losses, both in terms of quantity and monetary value. Specific links in the milk supply chain where significant losses were experienced were also identified. Losses with pragmatic solutions were identified and targeted for appropriate interventions aimed at reducing or eliminating the losses.

In Eastern Africa, the small-scale informal dairy sector was found to bear the brunt of post-harvest milk losses; formal milk processors incurred minimal losses. In terms of quantity, significant milk losses were found to occur at the farm level (8.4, 28.6, 46.4 and 54.2 million litres of milk per year for Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya, respectively) valued at between 0.9 and 11 million US dollars.

Post-harvest losses of milk at the farm represented 1.3 to 6.4 percent of the value of available milk at the farm level. The total value of post-harvest milk losses per year amounted to 9.9, 14.2, 17.8 and 23.9 million US dollars for Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, respectively.

Poor road infrastructure and inadequate markets for raw milk were the main causes of farm-level losses, which were found to be largely in form of spoilage, spillage and “forced home consumption” (including by calves and humans) over and above normal household consumption. Although in quantity terms forced losses may seem to be high, in value terms they are less significant, because an estimated 70% of the value of the milk is still captured. Along the marketing chain, milk loss was mainly due to spillage and spoilage. These losses were occasioned by poor access to markets, poor milk handling practices and irregular power supply in milk processing plants.

EADD has identified the lack of training in milk hygiene as an opportunity to improve the quality of milk sold by the informal dairy sector through implementation of a quality assurance scheme that incorporates training and certification of traders. The project is also assisting farmers to own chilling plants through Dairy Farmers Business Associations to reduce the losses and increase marketed output.

EADD is implemented by Heifer International in partnership with African Breeders Service Total Cattle Management (ABS-TCM), ILRI, TechnoServe and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the goal of this project is to help one million people – 179,000 families living on small 1-5 acre farms – lift themselves out of poverty through more profitable production and marketing of milk.

For more information about EADD, please visit the project website

This article was written by Tezira Lore with input from Amos Omore

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