By Lovemore Khomo
The Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET) has called upon the government to urgently revise and enforce the use of improved farm gate prices for dairy milk to ensure that farmers receive fair compensation for their hard work and dedication.
In a statement issued on 30th November, CISANET Board Chairperson Herbert Chagona called for an immediate action as the network feels the results of skyrocketing prices of goods posed a significant threat to the efforts of growing Malawi’s agri-food systems which are known to be crucial for achieving food and nutrition security in the country.
Chagona explained that by revising the farm gate prices, farmers will have the means to reinvest in their farms and families that will foster growth and resilience within the sector.
He expressed deep concern over severe effects of the recent devaluation of the Malawi Kwacha on the country’s agri-food systems that have also affected the daily milk industry.
“The dairy milk industry has been hardly hit where its prices have reached unattainable levels for most people, thereafter making dairy milk inaccessible, particularly for vulnerable populations who may greatly need this nutrient-rich food source,” complained Chagona.
He said this issue comes to their attention that milk processors persistently offer low prices to farmers at the farm gate, exacerbating the situation and creating an unjust environment where farmers struggle to make a sustainable income.
“Our findings indicate that most households are now giving up on dairy farming due to the exacerbating feed crisis. In random interviews we have held, most of them cited the increasingly low prices offered on the market by milk processors, irrespective of the cost of production.”
Veterinarian drugs aside, maize bran (Madeya) the preferred locally available feed and dairy marsh for dairy animals have become elusive to many with a 50 kilogramme bag of maize bran now sold about K18, 000 to K25, 000 and a 50kg bag of dairy marsh now at K35, 000 to K50, 000, a development which has resorted to use of grass.
This has contributed to an acute drop in the milk quality and quantity as cows need a good combination of protein and carbohydrates in their feed for best results.
Despite, processors are still offering between K300 to K365 per litre at farm gate and yet the retail price for milk in shops has been increased in line with the 44 per cent devaluation of the Kwacha.
On the other hand, CISANET Board Chairperson is appalled at reports on the huge drop in the general collection of the product by processors due to other related systematic political and administrative failures.
“For instance, some renowned milk processors who used to collect about 150,000 litres from farmers in a day are now managing to collect between 50,000 to 60,000 litres daily,” He said.
The sharp increase in the price of milk and its related products due to the recent devaluation of the Kwacha can have severe implications for Malawi’s collective efforts to address malnutrition, particularly among the rural poor and children in particular.
Currently, a litre of processed milk is fetching around K2, 000 in the shops, not to mention the other milk products that include cheese and yoghurt that are widely taken as a luxury to many households in the country.