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Meru milk plant too costly, not a priority, leaders say

Monday February 3 2020

Uhuru launches Igembe Central milk plant

President Uhuru Kenyatta views the proposed model of the New KCC Nyambene Milk Plant in Igembe Central, Meru County, during its launch on February 1, 2020. PHOTO | PSCU 

DAVID MUCHUI
By DAVID MUCHUI
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GITONGA MARETE
By GITONGA MARETE
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The milk cooling plant President Uhuru Kenyatta launched in Igembe Central, Meru County, was not a priority, some local leaders have said, and questioned its viability.

Senator Mithika Linturi and Tigania West MP John Mutunga said the supply of milk in the area is insufficient.

Senator Linturi, who skipped the President’s tour on February 1, added: "My concern is that we were not consulted on construction of the plant. These are misplaced priorities because I understand Igembe's problems. If elected leaders were consulted, they would have given their ideas on the plan."

LITTLE PRODUCED

Speaking during a live TV interview, the senator said the plan should be shelved until farmers in Meru North have enough cattle.

Mr Linturi said the government should have improved breeds and milk prices before setting up the cooling plant.

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“Igembe North, Central and South produce 28 million litres of milk annually, which translates to 76,000 per day. We buy most of our milk because we cannot produce enough. The milk plant is not a priority and its sustainability is in doubt."

He also said that Meru Central Dairy Cooperative Union has a processing capacity of 500,000 litres per day but gets about 130,000 litres.

Mr Linturi said Meru leaders requested to meet President Kenyatta before the launch, to brief him on their issues, but that did not happen.

“We have tried in vain to meet the President on several occasions. The frustrations you see among MPs in public meetings results from the inability to meet the President," he said.

'NO SURVEY'

Speaking separately, Dr Mutunga said the few dairy farmers in Igembe Central cannot sustain the plant which has a 100,000-litre capacity and which will cost at least Sh250 million.

“Before construction of such a facility, there is a need to carry out a baseline survey and a value chain analysis, which were not done. A simple survey reveals there a very few dairy farmers in Kangeta,” he told the Nation.

“The amount of milk produced in the area known for miraa farming is not known. I expected serious sensitisation of farmers on dairy farming if there really was a need to invest in a milk cooling plant,” the MP added.

“If residents don’t take up dairy farming, we will end up with a white elephant ,which will not benefit the common mwananchi."

DEFENCE

Mr James Mutia, a technical adviser in the county's cooperatives department, defended the project, saying residents and farmers were consulted before its construction.

“The argument that residents have no dairy cows is neither here nor there. Farmers are already producing more than 50,000 litres a day. The problem has been lack of a market for their produce," Mr Mutia said.

"The New KCC intends to bring competition and improve farmers' earnings."

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