Over $90 million worth of milk lost each year in East Africa and the Near East
Three-year FAO project helping countries cut losses in dairy sector
22 October 2004, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia / Rome -- Economic losses in the dairy sectors of East Africa and the Near East due to spoilage and waste could average as much as US$90 million per year, according to new studies by FAO.
The studies -- the first-ever such analyses of economic losses in Africa's dairy sector -- were conducted in five countries where FAO is working with local producers and government agencies to reduce losses of dairy products during production, transport and marketing.
Initial findings show that for just three of the countries studied, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, annual dairy losses add up to US$59.7 million each year. Results for the other two countries, Ethiopia and Syria, are still pending.
"That's a lot of spilt milk, and it adds up to a significant sum of money," said Anthony Bennett of FAO's Animal Production and Health Division, who is coordinating the project. "If you think about it in terms of what it costs to run a school milk programme in eastern Africa -- well, with this money you could feed six million kids for a whole year."
Country studies reveal scale of losses
In Kenya, each year around 95 million litres of milk are lost, at a value of around US$22.4 million per year.
Losses are highest at the farm level, adding up to US$15.4 million annually. "That's roughly equivalent to the combined salaries of 30 000 rural workers in Kenya," Mr. Bennett observed. Almost 60 percent of Kenya's population cannot afford their daily basic food and non-food items or survive on less than US$1 a day, he added. Reducing these losses would mean a lot to rural populations.
Cumulative losses in Tanzania amount to about 59.5 million litres of milk each year, for annual losses of around US$14.3 million, FAO's studies show.
Overall, over 16 percent of production is lost in Tanzania's dairy sector during the dry season, while losses during the wet season may surpass 25 percent.
In Uganda, approximately 27 percent of all milk produced is lost: 6 percent is wasted at the farm level, while 11 percent and 10 percent of production is either lost to spillage or spoilage during transport or marketing, respectively. FAO calculated the value of these losses at US$23 million a year.
Three-year FAO project aims to reduce losses
For many years governments and industry observers had known that post-harvest losses in eastern Africa's dairy sector were high. But little empirical data on the exact value of those losses, and no studies of how they occur, existed.
As a first step toward tackling the problem, FAO consulted with farmers, national dairy boards, agricultural extension agents, government officials and industry representatives in the region.
"We wanted to hear directly from people on the ground what they saw as necessary to solving the problem," said Mr. Bennett. "The thrust and design of this project are not coming from FAO, but right from the stakeholders themselves."
In 2003, this inter-regional dairy task force generated a detailed work plan for an FAO-coordinated project whose goal would be to reduce losses and improve food safety in the East African and Near East dairy sectors.
Three priority areas were targeted for action: training of farmers and distributors, improving transfer and adaptation of technologies for preserving milk, and building awareness of the problem and improving access to technical information on how to deal with it.
The first step was to undertake an extensive analysis, for each country, of its entire dairy sector. Phase two involved quantifying the economic value of losses as well as comprehensive analyses of where and how losses occur -- and how they can be reduced.
Regional training session wraps up today in Ethiopia
The next phase consists of an ambitious training programme which will take the information acquired thus far and teach farmers, agricultural extension agents, producers, marketers and vendors in the five countries ways they can reduce post harvest dairy losses.
Trainers and extension agents from all the involved countries have been participating in a month-long FAO workshop in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia, which concludes today.
Now they will take the knowledge gained there back home, where they will work with FAO experts to implement training programmes tailored to their respective countries.
Improved safety of dairy produce also a goal
FAO's project not only aims at reducing losses, but at improving safety and quality of the milk and dairy products as well.
Diseases like brucellosis and tuberculosis are widespread in the dairy herds of most of the countries participating in the FAO project, with 20 percent of some herds infected.
Dairy farming provides relatively quick returns for small-scale livestock keepers. It not only provides families with a balanced, nutritious food, but sales of extra milk can play an important role in bolstering household food security and reducing poverty.
FAO projects that demand for milk in the developing world will double by 2030. The vast majority of milk produced in these countries comes from small-scale farmers. Dairy imports to developing countries, in value terms, grew by 43 percent between 1998 and 2001. These imports could be reduced by the simple expedient of post-harvest loss reduction.
Additionally, FAO estimates that for every 100 litres of milk produced locally, up to five jobs are created in related industries like processing and transport.
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 53168
Information Officer, FAO Representation in Ethiopia
Office: (+251) 151 7233
Mobile: (+251) 961 0657
e-mail this article