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Eastern Africa News Network

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How Raw Milk Peddling Cannibalizes Dairy Industry Development in Tanzania

Come rain or shine, almost all households in Arusha get a ‘visitor’ each morning.

The visitor is usually a ‘milkman.’ Anyway. He could even be a boy, but hardly a woman.

A scooter delivers raw milk straight from the farm, but ground handling leaves a lot to be desired hygenically

The Morning visitor will either be pedaling a bicycle or riding a motorbike, whichever the case he will be carrying containers of milk for distribution to respective customers.

Quotas range from half-a-litre to three liters per household. The milk is poured from the delivery man’s containers into utensils that the individual customer brings to the door or gate.

For most Tanzanians this is a convenient arangement; they get to pay once every four weeks, to be assured of daily delivery of what they believe to be fresh milk.

The milk delivered at local households and restaurants in the mornings, originate from the slopes of Mount Meru, where local peasants extract it from their mostly malnourished individually owned cattle.

The quality of milk is usually out of question. The seller has to make huge profit in sync with keeping prices low and to attain this hybrid goal, sometimes water, plenty of it, gets added in the mix, to boost content.

But since the milk is used to make tea anyway, consumers hardly notice.

A few who do, will be heard to complain lightly “We Mmeruu haya maziwa leo ni Maji tupu!” (You man from Meru, the milk today is very watery).

The seller knows enough not to argue other than promise that it won’t happen again. But it usually happens again … and again … ad infinitum.

Eventually customers get used to the raw deal on raw milk. consoling themselved that “Well, as long as the commodity price remain within affordable range.

Tanzania is a country where people usually choose quantity over quality as long as price justifies the trade in.

Milk forms important an component for breakfast in practically all households, restaurants, bed-and-breakfast sleepers and even large hotels in towns and cities.

For homes with small babies, the commodity is essentially a lifeline.

Still, Tanzanians, if the case of Arusha is anything to go by, would rather rely on raw milk delivered by individual peddler, than opt for much safer factory processed products.

Euralia Marandu is the Sales and Marketing Manager fo the Galaxy Food and Bevearages Limited, the producers of ‘Kilimanjaro’ branded dairy products, admits that fresh milk from the factory faces sales challenges in market.

The firm’s flagship product, which is the long-life Ultra Heat Treated (UHT) fresh milk, doesn’t seem to be doing very well in market. Finding it hard to beat the raw, water dilluted deliveries from mountain farmers.

Unlike their neighbors just across the border in Kenya, where UHT Milk is common on breakfast tables at home, restaurants and school dinning halls, Tanzanians are yet to grasp the advantages of this long-life, factory processed and packaged milk.

Sometimes all they need to be told is that the milk has a shelf life of three months. Which should come in handy as most homes don’t have refrigerators.

They may also need to be assured that the UHT labelled preservation has little to do with chemicals but rather heat treatment, which is the same method used to keep milk fresh at home, as they usually also boil theirs to extend usage time.

Subpar versus Super

One thing people cannot guarantee from Raw Milk sold by mountain peddlers, is hygiene. It is hard to tell the methods used to milk the cows in the remote hills or how clean are the containers used to collect the same.

Diseases like Tuberculosis for instance have been described to be the result of unhygenic, raw milk which in addition to other impuritities, there are microscopic organisms that can only be detected in factories.

That is probably why the management of Galaxy food appeals to the government to help them raise awareness of the importance of safely packaged quality milk.

The company’s capacity is to produce 25,000 liters per day. Except due to market challenges, they are compelled to churn out 15,000 liters.

Still ‘Kilimanjaro,’ is doing quite well when it comes to their plain yogurt. The half-litre containers of the products fly from retail and supermarket shelves at alarming rate.

Galaxy Foods’ Daily sales peak at 15,000 liters, with plain Yogurt topping the bill.

Kilimanjaro Yogurt also known as ‘Mtindi’ is thick, natural and quite satisfying. In fact the drink fills the vacuum left by Kenya’s Brookeside Yogurt which used to be just as popular in Arusha before exiting the market for various reasons.

Mountain milk peddlers apparently cannot make yogurt, not of that quality anyway. At least, not with their rackets of adding water to milk. This is where Galaxy’s Kilimanjaro products take the upper hand.

The company also has flavored Yogurt packs, but it is the plain offering which is really driving consumers crazy.

While people can sell any white liquid as fresh milk, whether it is actually milk spiked spiked with water, or liquidified chalk, they cannot do the same with Yorgut.

Even Tanzanians who love cheap things, are not ready to take Yogurt that fails to meet palatable standard.

It is easy to cover subpar fresh milk with coffee or tea leaves at the breakfast tables. However, Yogurt is different, it to be taken plainly thus demanding nothing less in terms of quality and taste.

That therefore explains why Galaxy sells its plain Yorgurt well, despite not being lucky with UHT

Kilimanjaro Plain yogurt or ‘Mtindi’ (Left) versus the fresh Long-life milk from the same company (Right), where the former beats the latter in sales at almost 3:1 ratio, as far as figures from local retailers are concerned.

Galaxy Foods and Beverages Limited procure raw milk from small-scale farmers in Arusha and Kilimanjaro Regions.

According to the management, their suppliers are people that have joined cooperatives through which they can easily be directed on how to handle their milk to the required standards.

Marandu says the company plans to transcend borders and sell their products to Kenya, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Galaxy Foods and Beverages was established in 2019 and is directly employing 80 members of staff mostly young people.

A few years ago, when the Kenyan Milk Processing giant, Brookeside, purchased the formerly state-owned Tanzania Dairies Limited of Arusha,many anticipated that the plant would be revived to become the East African hub of dairy products.

But that was not to be the case; as soon as Brookeside moved into the Arusha Dairy plant they switched off the machines, converting the plant from milk processing factory into a depot, from which products from Brookeside plant in Nairobi will to retail and wholesale outlets in town.

The government stepped in, ordering Brookside to either start producing milk from the Arusha plant or be sent packing, because their investment in Tanzania Dairies was not to convert the factory into a reservoir for Kenyan milk.

Brookeside would claim that, they tried to procure raw milk from local farmers but the supplies were not enough to run the factory and many of the peasants mixed their milk with water to boost capacity thus reducing quality in the process.

That’s how the former Arusha based; Tanzania Dairies Limited died a natural death, despite the fact that Tanzania ranks second in Africa after Ethiopia as far as the number of livestock is concerned, with 22 million cattle, 15.2 million goats and 6.4 million sheep.

Only 30 percent of milk in the country comes from large-scale rancher. Peasants command 70 percent of Tanzania’s total raw milk supplies.

Now Galaxy is trying to retrace the steps of the former public dairy plant. But first, Tanzanians need to learn the importance of using safe and well packaged fresh milk.