Milk scarcity hits butter consumers as processors suspend production

Principal Secretary State Department for Livestock, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation Harry Kimtai. FILE PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

The Livestock department has attributed the shortage of butter that has hit households and the hospitality industry to a scarcity of milk, which has seen processors abandon production.

Livestock principal secretary Harry Kimtai said the shortage in supply of raw milk saw dairy farms give priority to the processing of milk as they suspended other high-value products such as butter and ghee.

There has been an outcry by consumers over the shortage of the two, which has seen Kenya rely on imported butter, mainly from Turkey and the Middle East to meet local needs.

The shortage has pushed the cost of imported butter up significantly with a half-kilo packet retailing at Sh900 from Sh700 previously.

Local butter was selling at Sh650 for the same quantity when it was in abundant supply.

“We must have enough milk to produce other different products, processors gave preference to milk because of the shortage, and they had to make sure that there is enough supply of it first before resuming normal production of things like butter and ghee,” said Mr Kimtai.

“We are coming out of prolonged drought but as rains have started we expect the supply to increase in near future and consumers will get better prices.”

In Kenya, butter is a preserve of the affluent and is used at the breakfast table as well as in cooking.

High-end hotels also use it for application on bread that is served alongside with soup in the first course of their meals.

Kenya started witnessing a shortage of these products last December with the situation becoming worse at the beginning of 2023.

As of last week, there was no local butter in most of the major retail outlets. New Kenya Cooperative Creameries and Brookside are the main suppliers in Kenya.

Kenya Dairy Board said in February that milk intake by major processors had dropped by 27 percent because of the shortage in production.

“The milk production has dropped by 27 percent in the country due to drought,” managing director Margaret Kibogy told the Business Daily.

The decline in production means that processors are now competing with the informal market, which accounts for more than 60 percent of the total milk that is produced in the country.

Kenya has witnessed a consecutive fifth rain failure, which has affected agricultural production in the country.

The weatherman has also forecast that the ongoing main season that started in March will experience depressed rainfall.

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