Kenya milk farmers losing money due to plastic containers

Dairy farmers using plastic containers have more of their milk rejected compared to those using other types of containers.

A survey in Nakuru County in Kenya’s Rift Valley shows milk in plastic containers is three times more likely to be rejected at collection centers compared to that in mazzi cans, aluminium or stainless-steel containers.

The survey by a team from Egerton University, Kenya, had sampled milk from 177 farms delivered to Wanyororo and Olenguruone dairy cooperative societies in Nakuru County.

The survey led by Faith Ndungi, (pictured), found up to a quarter, 24.9 percent, of milk delivered to the collection centers was rejected for various reasons.

This included failure to meet the standards for chemical composition, purity, and levels of bacteria and other microorganisms.

Almost 40 percent of the milk sampled had mastitis issues which were also confirmed at the farm level.

Other reasons for milk test failure and rejection the study says were poor hygiene at the farm level, use of plastic containers, and deliberate adulteration.

“Use of reusable towels, plastic containers, mastitis were the key factors for milk rejection in the sampled farms,” says the study.

The use of reusable towels to clean the udder was also significantly associated with milk rejection.

Cloth towels, the team says while more absorbent than paper towels must be disinfected after every use.

The use of the same cloth in different milking cows could also lead to the building up of dirt and bacteria hence milk contamination.

The most commonly used milk handling and storage containers the study found to be plastic s.

However, on experimentation it was found milk in plastic containers took the least amount of time to fail quality tests.

But still many farmers despite knowing the hygienic benefits of using the recommended aluminium and stainless-steel cans, use plastic containers.

The plastics they said was much preferred by transporters for their lightweight, come in larger containers, and have a tighter closing mechanism compared to the others.

“The common practice of use of plastic containers is unhygienic because these containers cannot be thoroughly cleaned especially around the neck and handle,” says the study.

But for this convenience’s the study says the farmers are losing money due to the high volumes of rejected milk.

The other reason contributing to milk rejection was the lack of cooling facilities both at the farm and cooperative level.

But with education and the use of food-grade containers, the researchers say much of post-harvest milk losses can be reduced.

The study appears in the May 2021 issue of the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development which is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year.

“Thank you all for walking the last 20 years with us,” says the journal founding editor Prof Ruth Oniang’o.

By Correspondent

About Gatonye Gathura 142 Articles
Science Journalist

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