The fact that only a small fraction of the milk produced in southern and eastern Africa is marketed by commercial enterprises implies that nearly all traditionally produced dairy products are marketed through traditional, informal marketing channels.
Most of the traditional dairy products are marketed through inter-household sales and exchange, rural trading centres and the common weekly or bi-weekly rural market days. In the majority of cases the women who process the milk are also the ones involved in marketing the dairy produce with occasional assistance from other female members of the family or young boys.
The prices received on sale of the dairy produce represent both the producer and retail (market) value of the product with no intermediate marketing agents involved. This simple marketing channel is of the lowest cost possible and does to a large extent provide maximum returns to the farmer under those particular situations. For example the return realised from the sale of a kilogram of buttermilk will fluctuate throughout the year depending on the change in the terms of trade of dairy products compared to food grains etc. (Kerven, 1987b). It has been stated elsewhere (Mbogoh, 1984) that milk is marketed mostly as sour milk or processed milk products such as butter, ghee or cheese. Except for ghee the other dairy products are usually of limited shelf-life and this tends to depress prices at times of plentiful supply of milk i.e. in the rainy season.
To improve the bargaining power of the traditional milk producer processors, products with a longer shelf life such as ghee should be encouraged. The production of buttermilk in the process of churning of sour milk to produce butter used in ghee preparation creates a bulky by-product of rather limited commercial value. This brings about buttermilk disposal problems after the family's needs have been satisfied. Production of cottage cheese from sour milk as is done in Ethiopia (O'Mahony and Bekele, 1985) is an option which might improve the marketing of rural dairy produce. Improvements in the shelf-life of the sour curd cheese may be achieved through pasteurization (cooking of the curd) as was suggested by Brumby and Gryseels (1984). However we need to be aware of the fact that apart from Ethiopia, there is no country within southern and eastern Africa where cheese or cheese-like products are made. This implies that the introduction of such new technologies in the traditional dairy sector will be difficult to achieve at the household level for purely cultural reasons. It might be easier to introduce new products and technology if the level of milk processing is elevated from the household level to the community or village level. It is conceivable that rural milk producers will be willing to sell milk to a rural dairy so long as they will not have to bear individually, the cost and uncertainties of a new product and technology. Such a development appears to have taken root in various parts of Sudan where it is reported (Osman, 1987; Kerven 1987a) that merchants who have set up rural cheese dairies buy milk from pastoralists and convert it to cheese (gibna bayda) which they readily sell in the cities. Such an approach will require appropriate changes in existing monopolistic government regulations which invariably limit the right to purchase and process milk to established public or private dairy commercial enterprises.
In talking about marketing of milk and milk products in Ethiopia, we have to look at three broad categories of producers. The intra-urban, peri-urban large scale producers and rural area peasant producers.
The intra-urban and peri-urban producers have different options for disposal of their products. They can sell direct to consumers, to a processing plant (in Addis Abbaba and Asmara), to grocery shops, restaurants and bars. In the case or rural peasant producers, who are about 85 per cent of all producers, they can market only butter and that is marketed in local markets. The itinerant trader collects the butter in local markets and sells the bulk to big butter dealers or directly to consumers. This also applies to cottage cheese sold in local markets accessible by road.
Most of the output of dairy products in the traditional livestock production system is consumed by the producer's family. The marketing of residual milk and milk products is done in the local markets.
The capital city, Bamako, is supplied with milk and milk products by ULB, as well as by producers and traders. Fresh milk and home-processed sour milk (lait caille) and butter are marketed by producers, pedlars and retailers.
Itinerant traders collect milk from rural areas. The house to house collection is bulked in large containers and is transported by rail to Bamako. Adjacent to the Bamako railway station there is a big milk and milk products market. The traders are all women. The sour milk brought by rail is sold to the women traders. The women process some of the sour milk into butter and ghee and the remaining sour milk is sold to consumers and to retailers. The retailers are generally women who make a house-to-house call and sell the sour milk to consumers. The women at the market sometimes add reconstituted milk powder to buttermilk to increase the volume.
Hawkers on bicycle or motor bicycle collect milk from producers and sell it at the railway station market or directly to consumers by a house-to-house call.
Wives of producers collect milk, fresh and sour, from the surrounding producers and add it to their own production. They dispose of the milk by selling fresh milk to the ULB and with the remainder produce butter and ghee and sell the resulting products direct to consumers.
Small dairy producers sell their products through several channels getting different prices for them depending on the individual system.
The most common one is to sell the products at the place of production. This is the most informal system which consists of people coming to buy traditional dairy products directly from the farmer or the traditional processing unit. In this system consumers and producers win because there are no middlemen in between. Probably, through this method the highest incomes could be obtained by the processors but usually, they require another sort of selling system because demand is not enough for the high production volumes, particularly in summer time.
The open market is another normal way used to sell traditional dairy products especially for non-authorized processing units. Sales may be made through middlemen or directly by the farmer. However, second quality product made at medium-sized processing units or authorized units are also sold in this way, using fancy names for those products in order that consumers do not identify bad products with the main trademarks. Prices obtained through this system are not so high, but at the open market big volumes of product can be sold.
There is also a system in which products are offered door-to-door by the salesman using a little delivery car so that housewives may buy milk products at their own home in a comfortable way. This method is used sometimes by the farmers themselves (as for selling raw milk) as well as by middlemen.
In the case of dairy processing cooperatives they normally have their own marketing. Probably, this is the only organized system and they have special sales places at the farm itself or at the main market in the city to sell their total production. In that way, farmers manage milk production, processing and even marketing of the dairy products in an organized system getting the highest incomes from the whole agricultural activity.
Besides those special marketing systems for traditional dairy products, the authorized processing units also sell their production in the main established markets of each country through supermarkets or similar retailing outlets e.g. farm chanco cheese is sold in the main supermarkets in Santiago, Chile. It is also sold by all the other systems mentioned above.
Of all the systems mentioned, selling through supermarkets and hypermarkets are the most difficult ones for traditional dairy products due to these markets usually having very efficient quality control of the products. Only good quality traditional products are accepted for sale. Provided quality requirements are met the prices are relatively good for farmers and the product becomes very famous, obtaining an important prestige value.
The milk and its products produced in Syria in the governmental factories, are all sent to the general organization for retail trade which belongs to the Ministry of Supply and has a great number of supermarkets for selling different products directly to the consumers.
Some dairy plants have private agents for selling their products to the consumers. These agents are paid mainly by means of a special commission from the total amount of different products sold or the agents are given a special discount to allow marginal profit.
Milk and its products produced in the private sector are either sold directly to the consumers or in most cases through buyers (middlemen) who buy from the private farms in the villages under special price and sell in the markets around the cities adding a profit to that price.
Some private farms have contracts with the dairy plants to send these factories their milk. Most small holders sell their milk directly to the consumers.
Marketing of the indigenous dairy products is as traditional as are the products. Halwais, the traditional sweetmeat sellers, produce and sell these products in all urban and semi-urban areas of the region. Halwais have prospered over the years as the products have high margins of profits.
The festival season (October - November) sales in many areas account for 30–40 per cent of the annual sales of traditional milk-based sweets. Most sales are made across the counter for ready cash.
Kulfi (ice cream) is usually sold from door to door by hawkers and some manufacturers also offer kulfi as a part of their wide range of ice creams.
Ghee is usually marketed in the traditional markets (mandies) by those who collect it from the villages and refine it further to remove all moisture. From the mandies, it goes to retail outlets. Ghee is usually branded by large traders. Large ghee mandies exist in Hathras, Khurja, Porbandar, Guntur and Erode. Jodhpur is probably the largest ghee trading centre in India. Some manufacturers now advertise ghee on the national television network. Organised dairies brands of ghee now fetch a good price as the quality is considered to be guaranteed.
Expanding markets. Some of the traditional halwais have more than one outlet in a city. Some have started canning rasogollas and gulabjamuns.
Bikaner in the west has emerged as a large custom processing and manufacturing centre for rasogollas. Halwais in Bikaner execute large orders and provide custom labelling for canned rasogollas which are manufactured in the traditional way but do not reach the quality of the traditional product.
Modernisation of marketing efforts. The most modern plant manufacturing traditional dairy products is the Sugam cooperative dairy at Baroda marketing its products through a large network of 150 retail outlets in the city. The Sugam Dairy uses the traditional grocery/ general stores that have a refrigerator to market its products. The product range includes shrikhand, gulabjamuns, peda and lassi apart from flavoured milks. The dairy has the highest turnover of a single unit marketing traditional dairy products. Other dairies are active in marketing traditional milk products.
In Nepal, except for the alpine regions, dairy farming and selling milk products is only a subsidiary occupation of the farmers.
Milk is marketed all over the country beginning with the smallest amount to a rural tea shop ending with the maximum amount in the Kathmandu valley. There are certain pockets in the mid-hills and alpine areas where milk is produced but it is not sold in liquid form because of the lack of a fluid milk market. In such cases the milk is normally converted into ghee for sale in the foothills etc.
In the high Himalayan region, before the cheese factories were established in the government sector the milk was converted either into traditional butter for sale in Tibet or into ghee for the Kathmandu market. At present where the cheese factories are operating the farmers sell their milk to cheese and butter factories.
At present, the marketing channel for traditional milk products for the remote and mid-hills area farmers is making ghee and chhurpi continuously and storing them at the farmer's house for the whole milk production season, which also coincides with the main farming season.
From the main production areas, the ghee is transported into the nearest marketing centres, after the harvest of monsoon crops or at the beginning of the winter season. Accumulated ghee from the farms is brought into the market during the winter season in the tin containers each having 16 kg capacity. The farmers usually go down to the market in groups each having one of them as the leader of the group. In the market these leaders negotiate the price with the middlemen. In return for their services they get various facilities while they are in the market. The middlemen are financed by the ghee merchants who actually act as ghee processors, stockists and exporters. The merchants clarify the ghee by melting and decanting, after which they pack it in different sizes of tin containers and seal it. Then it is exported into the Indian market under the famous name of Nepal ghee.
The price is not fixed by any statutory body for the traditional milk products. It generally fluctuates from market to market. In any particular market the price is governed by the volume of inflow of ghee and the local available quantity or stock. They recover duties, costs of containers etc., together with some profit from the export price which is negotiated by the Nepalese exporters with their counterparts in the Indian market. Other traditional milk products besides these described above as well as chhurpi and traditional butter are traded by farmers and middlemen. Curd, khoa, sher or shergum are marketed locally by the farmers themselves. Sometimes middlemen also appear in the business. Khoa and sher are packed in leaves and sold in the market or through middlemen in the towns and cities.
In Bhutan, there are essentially two separate markets for milk and these have formed according to the religious and social structure of the country. Due to predominantly Bhuddhist communities of the northern two- thirds of the country about 90 per cent of the milk produced is processed directly into natural lactic acid butter and cheese. Only a very small amount of fresh milk is fed to children or used in ordinary tea. The butter produced is mainly used in butter salt tea which is a mixture of tea, water, butter and salt.
Soft cheese is a very important component of the local diet. Butter and cheese also have an important place in religious ceremonies and considerable amounts of butter are used to fuel lamps in front of religious shrines.
The consumption of milk products in the Indian border areas in the southern third of the country tends to follow more closely the Hindu traditions with greater use of liquid milk rather than traditional milk products. All milk is boiled and it may be consumed directly as milk, in tea, or made into yoghurt which is an important component of the local diet. Ghee is produced from butter and used extensively in cooking. The ghee and butter are produced by traditional methods. So far there is no organized storage or distribution network for milk and milk products. Traditional butter and cheese have limited storage life and this restricts marketing. The trade in these traditional products is generally towards the regional urban centres and from there towards the larger centres such as Thimphu and Phuntsholing. In butter and cheese trading the farmer or his own family are becoming involved.
Recently the government of Bhutan established a mini dairy for liquid milk at Phuntsholing. This mini dairy plant will supply liquid milk to Phuntsholing and Thimphu. Similarly the government has initiated the organization of the marketing of cheese and butter with necessary procurement equipment, transportation and storage. A large quantity of chhurpi is exported to India and Nepal through the southern Bhutan borders. The demand for ghee and other products is increasing. The good quality ghee from Nepal and Bhutan can be exported to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh and even to other overseas countries, but it needs improvement in quality and in packaging.