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Dairying in southern highlands of Tanzania: Marketing problems prospects


E.T. Maganga

Ministry of Agriculture Research and Training Institute (MARTI UYOLE)


This paper presents data on the development of the milk production sector in the Southern Highlands (SH) of Tanzania. Information on dairy processing under centralized government owned system is provided. Due to lack of clear policy, and an effort to stimulate dairying in the country this sector has stagnated over the years. The present thrust in the small scale dairy cattle development will lead to milk gluts. If appropriate steps are not taken now a negative effect on this development is likely to frustrate increased output. The possibility of setting up milk processing plants and marketing under cooperative or private initiative in high potential areas as an alternative to the inefficient centralized government is suggested.


The Southern Highlands of Tanzania comprising of Mbeya, Iringa, Rukwa - and Ruvuma regions, occupies about aquarter of Tanzania mainland. The zone has 19% of the country's population according to available census data. According to 1988 human population census figures SH has the highest annual growth rate estimated at 3.4%.

SH of Tanzania is an agriculturally high potential area and is usually referred to as the big four regions in terms of staple food production. Livestock productivity in the area forms an important part of peoples occupation. Important in terms of cattle productivity is the traditional herd, crossbred animals and pure bred cows.

In Tanzania, dairy development effort focuses its attention in high potential areas mostly located in the highlands. Northern and Southern highlands have been identified as ideal places for dairy production. Government has joined hands with donor agencies in these areas in order to implement its dairy development policies (Muren, 1981 and Lauren and Centres, 1990).

In Tanzania, dairy development has received emphasis because of three main reasons namely: improvement of nutritional status of the society through increased milk consumption, increased cash income for dairy farmers and saving in terms of reduced dairy import. These considerations do not include social benefits realizable from this development endeavour.

Dairy cattle development.

The livestock statistics in the zone indicate that there is a total cattle population of 1.8 million indigenous cattle and about 15,330 improved dairy cattle. Table 1 below shows cattle distribution in T.shs.

Table 1: Total cattle numbers in T.shs (000)


























Source: MALD (1986).

Maganga and Matumla (1992) report that the former Uyole Agricultural Centre (now MARTI -UYOLE) has pioneered dairy development in the area by distributing dairy animals to small scale producers since mid seventies. The sale of breeding stock to small scale farmers account for 93.9% of sold cows, the remainder going to large scale farms. Livestock research department at MARTI -Uyole has continued to carry out problem oriented research programmes geared towards solving problems hindering increased production in the diary sector (Kifaro, Mbwile and Mchau 1986). MARTI- Uyole has also continued to supply the livestock sector with subject matter specialists to serve with the extension department of the Ministry of Agriculture including privately owned farms. To complement this effort short courses are conducted for both farmers and extension agents in the zone.

Donor Agencies are also active in the S.H. Mbeya and Iringa regions are supported by Swiss -Tanzania governments on a bilateral project. Promotion of livestock sector in Ruvuma region is also gaining momentum with the opening of livestock training institute at Madaba. While Ministry of Agriculture is actively introducing livestock in Ruvuma, parallel efforts are being made to improve traditional herd in Rukwa region.

Besides the small holder dairy producers, there are six large dairy farms in the area namely; Kitulo occupying about 20,000ha, Iwambi 600 ha, MARTI-Uyole 800 ha. Ihimbi, Malonje and Mbarali. There is also one privately owned dairy farm in Iringa. Given the above scenario, with the back up programme from donor agencies, extension support services and properly managed marketing system, dairy production is likely going to command a greater portion of agricultural output in the SH in the foreseeable future.

Milk Production

The traditional sub sector forms an important source of milk for human consumption. This is especially true when one considers the distribution of traditional herd in the zone as compared to improved and pure bred animals. The latter group is confined to high rainfall areas where weather conditions favour dairy production.

Zebu cattle are small, hardy and well adapted to local conditions, but milk yields are relatively low, the average yield per cow and lactation vary from 150 - 6000 (Muren, 1981; Kurwijila, 1988; Mchau, 1980). Therefore milk off take from this subsector is very small and Kurwijila (1988) estimates a figure of 150 l/lactation.

Small scale dairy farmers are concentrated in high rainfall areas. This is also true for large scale government farms with the exception of Mbarali dairy project. For this group of farmer, milk is an important "cash crop". Due to high investment costs producers tend to intensify production. Average dairy milk yields per milking cow ranges from 6.6 to 11.4 l implying total lactation yields of less than 3000 l for large scale farms. Mchau et at (1985) reports an average daily milk yields for small scale farmers as varying from 9.0 l for pure bed cows to 5.0 l for cross bred animals. From the data given above milk production in both large and small scale dairy farms is satisfactory. Milk off take from this sector forms an important source of milk supply for the fast growing urban and periurban population. Although most small scale dairy farmers own from 1 to 8 animals milk production is above family requirement hence the surplus milk is sold to meet financial obligations of the family.

Milk Marketing and Processing.

Collection and marketing of milk in Tanzania is the responsibility of Tanzania Dairies Limited (TDL). In SH TDL set up a milk processing plant in Mbeya Municipality with an installed processing capacity of the order of 16,000 l per day. This plant was set up to serve the parastatal farms and small scale producers in the area. Like most o the TDL plants, the volume of milk received for processing has been on the decline as data in table 2 indicates:

Table 2: Volume of milk processed at Mbeya TDL plant (000 1).


Volume of milk intake

% Plant capacity utilization



















The data presented above indicate a downward trend in the volume of milk handled at the plant. Among the reasons advanced for the shrinking volume of milk received at the plant is the direct sale of milk by producers to milk vendors and consumers. This in turn has been the result of the liquidity problems of TDL due to lack of prompt payment of producers. TDL has been denied the privilege of processing and marketing milk.

Quality control procedures at the plant might also be a contributing factor for some of the producers to ultimately shy away from underpayment as a result of low grade milk delivered Utilities such as water, stable electricity and high cost of chemical sanitizers have affected the smooth operation of the plant. Todate TDL is out of operation. The authorities concerned are silent including the parent Ministry (Agriculture) whereby producers are left to market their own milk. This is an up hill task for the small scale milk producers. The above state of affairs is a clear indication of the failure on the part of centralized milk marketing system to render services to dairy producers.

Rungwe district is one of the leading areas in dairy production in the zone. As a result of the collapsed government owned centralized system; two producer cooperatives has been formed. Mwakaleli Dairy Farmers Cooperative (MDFC) operates in Mwakaleli valley about 110 km from Mbeya. Another cooperative known as UWATU (Umoja wa Wafugaji Tukuyu) operates around Tukuyu town. Both cooperatives own each a three and quarter ton truck for ferrying milk to distant markets. Due to milk marketing problems MDFC has limited its membership to only 70. During the wet season MDFC collects up to 1500 l per day and the collection drops to 800 l during the dry season. Therefore the rest of the farmers are compelled to find ways of disposing their surplus milk.

These two cooperatives are farmers efforts to address problems hindering their development endeavour. They are both in their infact stage. If the sense of neglect on the part of government continues and its failure to address the problems facing the dairy industry, farmers are likely to scale down their scope of production and shift their resource elsewhere. What will happen is the stagnation of the industry at an early stage portraying a picture of a healthy child struck by malnutrition.


Moving on from some of the more gloomy picture given above let us consider changes which may present opportunities for the industry.

Milk production is a delicate undertaking, a lot of knowledge and dedication from the persons involved are necessary to obtain good results. Production areas in most cases are far from the potential markets. And the present dairy development effort in SH is directed towards milk deficit areas. These are usually remote areas served with poor feeder roads. Such areas are normally in -accessible during peak season as a result of heavy rains.

Milk is highly perishable, it has a shelf life only limited to few hours after milking unless some sort of preservation step has been undertaken. Another important aspect is that being fluid and bulky, marketing measures presents a problem; thus processing and preservation methods have to be tailor made in the distribution system envisaged. Therefore milk processing is a prerequisite to milk marketing. Through processing fluid milk is converted into high value products. By undertaking processing it is possible to serve the market with a wide range of products. This is of advantage than relying on liquid milk alone as consumer preferences differ.

In selecting the range of products to be produced, a cautious approach should be used. Considerations such as production costs (UHT. milk), transportation costs (fermented milk), popularity among consumers, storage requirements (refrigeration) should be taken into account before embarking on any production programme. Depending on location, products such as cheese could be targeted to the elite group and those in the high income bracket with advertisement and promotion. Yoghurt and dairy ice cream could easily be marketed in warmer areas if price tags are realistic. Table 3 below indicates the type of products produced by TDL - Mbeya plant.

Our society is now going through harder economic times; therefore their purchasing behaviour pivots around priority matters. Thus all our production; right from the farm to the industry has to be cost effective. This will likely keep our prices within the easy teach of the consumer. This in turn will stimulate consumption. Besides prices, consumers are very conscious about quality of products we produce. One has to understand that consumers are not "empty cups", where one can put inempty any contents. Consumers know what they want. All consumer's choice is influenced by quality. Our production processes has to be kept under rigorous quality controls. And the whole production process has to be kept safe.

Table 3: Product range produced at Mbeya plant ('000)


Market milk (1) (Bulk)

UHT milk (1)

Sour milk (1)

Tetrapack milk (1)

Butter (kg)

Ghee (kg)











































We do remember what happened to the Europe egg industry when Salmonella scare broke out. Manufacturers have to look for potential hazards and then willingly reducing the risks, not just to acceptable levels but to minimum levels.

There is also the problem of veterinary drugs and mycotoxins finding their way into the milk. Producers have to be educated on dangers of high levels of antibiotics in the milk. Antibiotic levels have direct bearing on milk processing and on consumers health. This can be controled by introducing levels of antibiotic in the payment scheme. Mycotoxins result from feeding animals with mouldy concentrates. Mycotoxins have been shown to be carcinogenic. This is a problem in high rainfall areas. Proper storage and handling of concentrates can overcome this problem.

Fat and saturated fat have become negative words in consumers vocabulary in Europe. Since our consumption levels of dairy products are low such problems may take a long time to come. Lactose intolerance is a problem to some consumers. This group of consumers can be served with fermented dairy products. These two problems need to be given attention by the marketing system that is operating.

As pointed earlier, the centralized milk marketing system is not functioning. It is high time that diary farmers are mobilized to form their own producer - processor cooperative movements. Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has to use its cooperative department to sensitize dairy farmers about marketing problems. Since the top down approach since the top down approach has failed in the running of cooperatives, a grass-root approach seems to be the available option. Education of producers on full participation in the running of cooperatives, a grass-root approach seems to be the available option. Education of producers on full participation in the running of such unions may serve future disappointments. Such cooperatives may perform the following functions:-

1. Collect producers milk by operating cooling centres.
2. Process milk into various products as per consumer requirements.
3. Marketing of resulting dairy products.
4. Provide members with services such as concentrates, drugs, veterinary services, etc.
5. Determine pricing policy to sustain increasing production/consumption.
6. Negotiate with the government on producer interests including surcharge on imported products.

Once the cooperatives are functional, the marketing channel between producers and consumers should be removed. Two advantages may be realized from this exercise. First and for most all he producers milk will find their way to the cooperative processing plants; ensuring capacity utilization and production of avariety of dairy products. Through processing, the health risks that may a rise from milk and milk products is removed. This is important because even in developed economies todate milk and milk products cause health problems such listeria in Stilton and soft cheeses. Processed milk has an additional processing cost which the consumer has to pay for. Therefore when the producers milk is allowed into the market then it goes without saying that consumers will go for the "raw" milk marketed by producers to avoid the additional processing cost in buying processed milk.

Dairy producers in Mbeya; both large and small are having problems of disposing their milk. Mbeya town is estimated to have a total of over 200,000 inhabitants. The 4 large scale dairy farmers are failing to market a total of about 3,000 l produced daily. One clear reason for the depressed consumption is the high price of milk (or decreasing standard of living?) put at about l60/= per litre. This has confined consumption of milk to the high and middle income brackets. In order to have affordable prices, dairy production, processing and marketing must be cost efficient.

It is evident from the above that all dairy producers should be involved in the marketing process. And that all aspects of the dairy industry are directed towards the marketing goal inorder to ensure that the enterprise is sustainable.

Marketing must have its focus on the consumer; taking all aspects of consumer needs; it must bring together all elements of the marketing mix to take advantage of the opportunities identified i.e the product itself, product quality, packaging, pricing, distribution and ultimately communicating the benefits of the product to the consumer through advertising and promotion.


What we are witnessing today are concerted efforts towards increased milk production through promotion of dairying in high potential areas. Unfortunately there is no parallel effort directed towards post production handling of surplus milk. With the collapse of the TDL, this development endeavour has been threatened with stagnation. Milk consumption level has dropped. High prices and falling standard of living seem to be the most important contributing factors. We need to address this situation at earliest possible time. Milk processing and marketing strategies has to be developed. Small scale producers need to be mobilized to form producer - processor cooperatives at grass root level. MOA has a vital roll to play; using its Cooperative department in mobilizing farmers. Deliberate efforts need to be undertaken to encourage private enterprenuers (concessions?) to invest.

Milk being bulky and highly perishable collection and processing need to be well located. Cost effective methods must be employed to keep prices of dairy products at levels where most consumers can afford. Advertising and promotion will form an essential part of marketing. Processed products have to be moved closer to the consumer in order to promote sales. Organisations such as Tanzania Bureau of standards has an important role to play to ensure that high quality products and services are rendered. In undertaking processing the range of products to be produced must be directed towards consumer needs.


Kifaro G.C. Mbwile, R.P. and Mchau K.W. (1986), Dairy development in SH of Tanzania Proc 13th Sci. Conf. Tanzania Society Anim. Prod. Vol. 13.

Kurwijila R.L. (1988). Some reflections on milk supply and consumption statistic in Tanzania with particular reference to the role of the traditional cattle herds. Proc. 15th Sci. Conf. Tanzania Soc. Anim. Prod. Vol. 15.

Lauren C. and Centres J.M. (1990). Dairy husbandry in Tanzania. A development programme for small holders in Kilimanjaro and Arusha region.

MALD (1986). 1984 National Livestock final count Tanzania MOA

Maganga E.T. and Matumla, M.H. (1992). Project proposal for Funding and Assistance to Small Scale Dairy production in Mwakaleli S.H. Mbeya Tanzania, Uyole Agricultural Centre.

Mchau, K.W. 1980. Dairy Cattle at Village Level in Rungwe District, Res. Report No. 30 Mbeya Tanzania Uyole Agricultural Centre.

Mchau, K.W.. Ibbe M., Lenggenhaer and Kifaro G.C. (1985). Some preliminary results from Mbeya region small scale dairy recording scheme. Proc. 12th Sci. Conf. Tanzania Soc. Anim. Prod. Vol. 12.

Muren K. (1981). Socio-Economic study on Large Scale Dairy Production. A case study of the dairy herd at Uyole Agric. Centre. Uppsala Sweden.


Q. De Wolf

a) Fate of TDL; what are you doing to save the buildings and machinery for the possible milk surplus over 5 or 10 years.

b) In case TDL is sold are you not afraid that the buildings will be used and that the expensive equipment thrown on the scrap heap.


a) TDL is being auctioned, the Regional Commissioner is trying to assist, but the Liabilities are big.


b) Yes.

Comment by Mteti

The response to assist answering the question: The technology in Mbeya is Eleaster machine, whose technology uses electricity. We have failed to cope with this despite the rehabilitation done five years ago. Shelf life has not reached 14 days. Consumers don't make a difference in the pasteurized milk and processed milk. Maximum milk received per day was only 4,200 litres out of 16,000 litres/day.

Q. W. Weperen

a) Are there more groups than the two Cooperative Society mentioned by the Speaker.
b) What is your proposition to combat the constraints as identified in relation to the role of SSDDP.


a) No answer
b) The staff within the Ministry of Agriculture should put in more effort to sensitize farmers on farming primary associations.

Q. W. Schulthess

Input of SSDDP are important. In light of this dairy market at less than 4000/litres/day appears very low. Why is no effort undertaken to process this profitable milk (cheese making etc)?


The trend is marketing of fresh milk. Processing is a matter of. private enterprenuer who have not come forth yet.

Comment by Boki, K.J.

SSDDP which is working in Iringa and Mbeya regions cannot start processing milk (invest in Machinery) as this is not a core function of the government. The Government policy is to dis-engage itself from production, processing and marketing. SSDDP has a challenge of organising farmers into groups (Associations) which later on will take the processing function of their own milk. Otherwise, milk processing is open to the private sector (which includes Co-operatives Associations)

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