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January 17, 2011

New technology extends shelf life of milk in Kenya

by Gitonga Njeru

A new milk processing technology, which preserves milk for up to a month, is helping Kenyan dairy farmers significantly reduce losses. "The new technology, used now for a few months in Kenya, allows better freshness, a natural taste, no loss of vitamin content, and a longer shelf life," says Macharia Gichohi, managing director of the Kenyan Dairy Board. The Dairy Board is also providing loans to farmers to enable them to take advantage of the technology and has announced plans to purchase excess milk produced from farmers.

The Extended Shelf Life (ESL) technology works by applying heat indirectly and reducing the levels of lactose. According to Philip Karanja, a farmer from Limuru, ESL has enabled him to sell a larger quantity of milk. "What I like most is that farmers can sell their milk at a later date when they do not get customers immediately," Karanja explains. Before, he produced 25 litres of milk every day but 50 per cent was spoilt due to poor storage and preservation methods.

Over 3,000 farmers are now benefitting from this pilot project which is being implemented by the Limuru Dairy Farmers' Union. To expand the project, the Union is also partnering with banks, government agencies and dairy insurance companies.

According to Kenya's livestock minister, Mr Mohamed Kuti, the dairy sector contributes 3.5 per cent of the country's GDP and due to increasing demand the price of milk has increased to more than US$0.30 per litre in the last few months.

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