When milk prices plummeted to a level that farmers were forced to pour away their milk due to lack of market a few years ago, Jacob Kimeto, from Metkei Ward in Keiyo South contemplated selling his dairy cows owing to the losses he was recording.
“There was nobody who could buy milk in my village in 2010 since there was a milk glut. I used to sell my milk in Eldoret but during that period, there was nowhere I could take my milk,” he recalls.
But all these came to an end when he started supplying his milk to Metkei Farmers Dairy Cooperative Society who other than paying him in good time, he also had a reliable market. The processor receives milk from farmers and sells on their behalf. James Cheboi, the manager at the cooperative society which serves about 2000 members says the society signed a contract with other milk processing companies to ensure that milk from the farmers would not go to waste. Some of the nearby schools which include Simotwo, Kipsaos and Kombatich buy their milk from the dairy processor.
They are chilling milk and selling milk on behalf of farmers who are then paid on a monthly basis depending on the kilos of milk supplied. “We have 500 litre per hour capacity skid mounted processor with a packaging machine and we aim to double the processing of milk from the current 4000 litres to 8000 litres daily,” says Mr Cheboi.
The cooperative collects milk from both small and large scale farmers like Teresia Kiplagat who delivers an average of one litre of milk daily. She hopes to increase her production as she has already acquired an heifer she purchased through her milk proceeds.
Mr Cheboi credits the county government of Elgeyo Marakwet for the support that has seen the cooperative society flourish. The County; he says, bought them a lorry which is used to deliver milk to Eldoret. “The County Government has really helped us. We have the lorry; water pump which has ensured a constant supply of water and the processor which has helped improve our milk sales given to us by the County. We thank Governor Alex Tolgos for the good that the county has done to us so far,” he says.
The lorry, which has been branded ELMA a short form for Elgeyo Marakwet-will be used in ferrying packaged milk from the processing plant to markets within and outside the County. Already, there are four automatic milk teller machines in Eldoret that supply an average of 300 litres of milk daily.
Governor Alex Tolgos urged farmers to increase milk production so that they can fully maximise the new processing plant.
“Our vision in adding value to our milk produce is to facilitate all Cooperative Societies in the County sell their milk under the ELMA brand,”said Tolgos.
The County boss at the same time urged farmers to embrace artificial insemination to improve quality of their livestock and increase milk production.
“We are serious in these efforts and we urge our farmers to continue embracing our subsidised AI services and improve their breeds for increased milk production,” he added.
He said the county is sourcing for partners to support purchase a long life milk processing equipment which costs Sh130 million.
Milk coolers with capacity to store 64,600 litres have already been installed across the county and a livestock feed formulation plant installed and a silage making equipment as the county aims at improving milk production.