Bio Foods teams up with farmers to address dairy threats


• Predictable milk prices have been a big incentive for farmers, meaning they can plan knowing what level of income they expect in the course of the year.

Bio Foods Chief Executive Officer Joachim Westerveld

Bio Foods is working closely with milk farmers and their cooperatives to address challenges affecting the quality of dairy products.

Bio Foods Chief Executive Officer Joachim Westerveld told the Star that the company has managed to turn around the dairy sector because of its proactive measures and interventions.

In a wide-ranging interview on the firm's foothold in the country, Westerveld however regretted that farmers continue to face a raft of challenges.

The numerous challenges, he said, remain a major threat to boosting farmers' earnings and securing the health of consumers.

One of the biggest challenges that he said is bogging down farmers, Westerveld said, is the threat of high levels of aflatoxin in milk.

He said this is brought about by contamination along the value chain.

“Farmers are people we need to really admire because there's so many things which are stacked against them. There are feeds which are contaminated and the weather patterns. So one time of the year they have a huge amount of milk to the next part of the year they have no milk. So being a farmer is not easy,’’ he said.

The challenges, he noted are not unique as they also present themselves on the company, calling for well-thought-out solutions to mitigate the effects.

The company’s solutions go beyond just detecting contamination to mitigation, response and proactive interventions that include working with feed manufacturers.

 “So when for instance, we get milk that is too high in aflatoxin, we don't necessarily point fingers at the farmer, we understand, we know the environment they're operating and try to find out where things went wrong,’’ he said.

 “So we do a lot of work with feed producers to make sure that they actually produce consistently safe feeds. So the challenges are weather patterns. Obviously, sometimes we have a lot of rain,

"Then we struggled to be able to collect American farmers and have milk which we're happy with. Sometimes we have drought, which is difficult for the farmers and difficult for us,’’ Westerveld said.

Besides working with animal feeds manufacturers, the company says it also invests in sensitisation campaigns that seek to inform farmers of the pricing model that makes the prices predictable.

It is also training individual farmers at the farm and equipping them with skills to mitigate contamination of milk while guaranteeing minimum returns.

“We pay the same price throughout the year. We do not fluctuate. So when there's a drought and the milk price goes up, we keep the same price and when the rain comes and the milk price drops significantly, we keep the same price throughout the year,’’ Westerveld said.

Predictable milk prices have been a big incentive for farmers, meaning they can plan knowing what level of income they expect in the course of the year.

“So very often, in the drought our farmers are able to produce more milk because they have invested in feeds,’’ he said.

Speaking on the cost of animal feeds as another challenge facing dairy farmers, Westerveld said his company is investing in production to try to bring the cost down.

“We have made a long-term commitment as Bio Foods and we are working on how we can bring the cost of feeds down by increasing production per acre while trying to experiment with different regions with different types of grass,’’ he said.

“We want to see if we can produce feeds and flora which are at the same nutritional level but at a lower cost, we have just started it and that's a long-term commitment.’’

He said the company is focusing on investing heavily in modern ways of farming that leverage on technology to spur production of animal feeds at a lower cost to boost milk exports.

"I think one of the key things that we are also working together with the current administration and the administration is focused on, is how do we in the longer term bring the cost of production down," he said.

According to the CEO Kenya can become a net exporter of milk if the cost of production comes down and farmers are helped to get high yields.

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