Over 90 percent of local milk production is sold informally in the market, according to a study published by the Ethiopian Meat and Dairy Industry Development Institute (EMDIDI). The institute also reported widespread consumption of unprocessed and unpasteurized milk.
A compositional and microbiological analysis carried out on samples of milk and dairy products in the unregulated market has shown that milk is largely sold with low nutritional and hygienic quality. The marketing method is the main contributor to the inferior quality observed on the produce, the study has pointed out.
Concerned by the poor quality of local dairy products, a number of hotels and companies such as Ethiopian Airlines have began importing dairy produce from abroad. Ethiopia has reportedly spent USD10 million last year in foreign powdered milk imports.
Ethiopia has the largest population of cattle in Africa. In 2013, the Central Statistic Agency estimated that the country is home to about 54 million cattle. Out of these, over 10 million are cows. Despite its large cattle size, the country’s annual milk production does not exceed four billion litters. Dairy products are exposed to contaminants due to traditional production, handling, transportation, and processing practices.
EMDIDI said that it is working on a regulation to improve the quality of dairy products sold in local markets.
Desalegn Gebremedhin, Director of the Milk and Milk Products Division at EMDIDI, said “we are aware that individuals sell various traditionally produced dairy products. Unpasteurized milk, as well as milk mixed with water are prevalent in the market. As such, regulated dairy producers have trouble acquiring high quality milk. Ultimately, consumers are forced to consume imported powdered milk.”
“The new regulation will help efforts to improve the quality of milk in the local market. It will dictate necessary provisions for transactions in the dairy market,” Desalegn added.
A shortage of pasteurizing houses and the high cost of feeding cattle are reported to be major challenges faced by farmers.
Belachew Hurrissa, Chairman of the Ethiopian Milk Processors Association, said there needs to be strong ties between farmers and milk processors in order to regulate the quality of dairy products.
Belachew noted, “The dairy industry should support farmers. For instance, supplying cattle feed at a fair price and raising farmers’ awareness of milk quality maintenance would help strengthen the link between dairy farmers and processors. On the other hand, the government should intensify its role in managing illegal activities in marketing, seasonal fluctuations of milk supply, excessive raw milk adulteration and trading permit certifications.’’
Local dairy demand is met primarily by traditional production and supply systems. The regulated dairy produce chain is limited to a few urban centres, mainly Addis Ababa and some major towns in the Oromia region.
The per capita milk consumption of Ethiopia is 19 litres per year, which is much lower than the global per capita milk consumption of 75 litres annually.