KENYA – Kenyan government has attributed the shortage of butter that has hit many households and the hospitality industry to the scarcity of milk, which has led to most processors abandoning the production of the product.

Harry Kimtai, the Kenyan Livestock Department’s principal secretary, explained that due to the deficit of raw milk, dairy processors have had to prioritize liquid milk processing and stop producing other high-value commodities such as butter and ghee.

“We must have enough milk to produce other different products, processors gave preference to milk because of the shortage, and they had to make sure that there is enough supply of liquid milk first before resuming normal production of things like butter and ghee,” said Mr Kimtai.

There has been an outcry by consumers over the shortage of the two, which has seen Kenya rely on imported butter, mainly from Turkey and the Middle East, to meet local needs.

In Kenya, butter is a preserve of the affluent and is used at the breakfast table as well as in cooking. High-end hotels also use it for application on bread that is served alongside soup in the first course of their meals.

The shortage has caused the cost of imported butter to increase significantly, with a half-kilo packet retailing at Sh900 from Sh700 previously. Local butter was sold at Sh650 for the same quantity when it was in abundant supply.

Recently, there has been no local butter in most of the major retail outlets from Kenya’s major suppliers; New Kenya Cooperative Creameries and Brookside.

Kenya started witnessing a shortage of these products last December, with the situation worsening at the beginning of 2023. Milk prices skyrocketed on the back of heightened drought, which has struck most parts of the country.

According to Kenya Dairy Board, the scarcity of milk arose from a previous drought in most parts of the country, but the situation was expected to change once the rains began.

“The shortage is due to drought, but the expected rains will reverse the trend,” said Margret Kibogy, KDB managing director.

In February, the Kenya Dairy Board reported that milk intake by major processors had dropped by 27 per cent because of the shortage in production.

The decline in production means that processors are now competing with the informal market, which accounts for more than 60 per cent of the total milk that is produced in the country.

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