Milk quality creates a dairy chain reaction

Originally published on August 31, 2017.

Milk is a fragile commodity. Cleanliness, proper storage, temperature control – any mishandling from farm to processor could cause contamination or bacteria counts to rise, resulting in spoiled milk. In Rwanda, these issues can be great challenges to the industry. Smallholder farmers and dairy businesses require proper equipment and training in milk handling and processing to produce a quality product. Not long ago, farmers simply couldn’t reliably deliver substantial quantities of milk to buyers. And without a reliable supply, farmers suffered to make an income, as did every piece of the dairy supply chain.

Inyange Industries is Rwanda’s largest dairy processor. Like all other dairy processors in Rwanda, quality issues hindered business growth and innovation. “We used to reject 60 percent of milk coming from milk collection centers across the country. This limited our ability to both increase milk volumes as well as create value-added dairy products,” says Chris Kabalira, Marketing and Sales Manager at Inyange.
Recognizing the need to address the root of the problem, in 2012, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Rwanda Dairy Competitiveness Program II (RDCP II) started working with stakeholders across the dairy supply chain to address issues of milk productivity and quality. Farmers received on trainings on milk production and quality, and milk collection centers and cooperatives received training too and equipment to improve their dairy business operations.

Since the start of RDCP II in 2012, Inyange has seen a dramatic increase in quality and quantity of milk produced by smallholder farmers. “Rejection at the milk collection centers is nearly zero percent. As a result of the improvements in quality and quantity, our milk processing volume has increased from 20,000 liters a day to 100,000,” says Chris.  As a result, Inyange has been able to create new products which include: pasteurized milk, UHT, flavored milk, ghee, both salted and unsalted butter and yoghurt. “In fact, Rwanda never used to have locally-made butter. We always imported. Today, our Butter products are on the shelves and are liked very much,” says Chris. According to Chris, “It’s exciting to watch the number of dairy products increase.” And I’m happy to support an industry that makes local, healthy products and support farmers.

The increase in number of products has not only strengthened Inyange’s business, but also the lives of farmers across the country.  “’Support a Rwandan farmer’ is our slogan and we believe in it,” says” Chris. “We pay over 5 billion Rwandan Francs (6.2 million USD) to farmers every year. In the Eastern Province of Nyagatare alone, on an average day we provide reliable income to 1,753 farmers. When we do well, farmer’s live better – it works both ways.”

Milk is and always will be a fragile commodity, and so Inyange and other processors will continue to face challenges. However, young visionaries like Chris see the industry as full of hope and opportunity RDCP II has added so much to the industry. The training of farmers has solved so many problems especially around milk production and quality. This program has really paved the way for the industry to grow.”

For the first time, Rwandans are now enjoying a variety of locally made products, like cheese, butter, reduced fat milk and a strawberry yogurt.

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