Dar es Salaam: The government has refused to lift the ban imposed on foreign companies exporting raw milk and importing its processed products under foreign brand names. Although this could have negative implications on the country’s economy, the decision has been challenged by dairy farmers who complain of being denied a market for their produce.
Farmers in the Northern regions say they have been denied reliable markets for their milk and related products because of the government ban.
In an exclusive interview with The Guardian, they appealed to authorities to allow Kenya-based Brookside Limited to resume collection of the produce which they said has helped create more jobs in the area.
Samuel Sitta who is the minister for East African Cooperation said there was no way the government would allow foreigners to process produce from Tanzania in their countries and bring them in under foreign labels. 'These products bear foreign labels, but are not truly foreign. For example, some foreign companies take fruits from Tanga Region to Kenya for processing and re-export them, with labels showing that they are made in that country,' Sitta explained.
Sitta said it was high time foreigners thought about processing the produce locally by setting up the plants in Tanzania. He also said that Tanzanian products were enough to sustain any company needs, with infrastructure improvement plans to all regions now under implementation.
For his part, Alnoor Hussein who is Tanga Fresh executive director said Brookside won’t affect the market much as his company does not have the capacity to process all the milk in the country. According to Hussein, currently the country is facing shortage of milk because of the adverse weather, but added that poor infrastructure hindered milk collectors from reaching more rural areas.
Arusha-based Kisube Women Dairy Farmers wants Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda to visit them and see how they have been robbed of their livelihood after the government slapped a ban on raw milk purchase by the Kenyan firm'.
'It was hard then and it is still hard for us to come to terms with the death of the only market, caused by our own government,' Devota Tumainiel Marandu who is the leader of the group complained.
Industries, Trade and Marketing deputy minister Lazaro Nyalandu said Tanzania’s current policy was to make sure that there is value addition before products are exported. He added that foreigners should think of processing the products in the country instead of purchasing them raw and re-exporting the processed goods.
Nyalandu said it was not true that Tanzania was not capable of satisfying companies’ raw material needs, but that it was only that the infrastructure cannot timely respond when required to do so. He added that his ministry was working together with those of Works and Energy and Minerals to improve power supply and transportation of agricultural produce.
The media recently said that livestock keepers were not benefiting from the milk they produce and that in some areas, they were selling the produce on credit. In some areas prices of raw milk have fallen from 400/- to 150/- per litre.
The government banned Brookside, the region’s largest milk processor last year from collecting the commodity and processing it in Kenya. It also directed that all milk produce and products originating from Tanzania must be processed locally. Authorities accused Brookside of contravening the 2004 agreement which wanted the firm to rehabilitate the defunct state-owned Tanzania Dairies Limited and put up an ultra heat treated milk processing plant.
At the time of the ban in November 2008, Brookside was collecting 6,000 litres of milk and planning to go up to 13,500 litres during peak season. The farmers were earning 2.9m/- daily through selling milk to the company. This was a big improvement from the mere 1,000 litres that was collected daily in 2004, but far below the 60,000 litres required for a UHT facility, whose set-up costs was estimated at USD100m. Available statistics indicate that only 10 per cent of raw milk produced in Tanzania (1.7 billion litres) a year, is processed.
Tanzania has nearly 19 million head of cattle, the third biggest in Africa after Ethiopia and Sudan. Currently, the milk production is mainly from cattle. Of the population found in the country about 560,000 are dairy cattle, consisting of Freisian, Jersey, Ayrshire breeds and their crosses to the East African Zebu.