A cross sectional survey using semi-structured questionnaires was carried out in Laikipia and Isiolo districts and Nairobi city in January and April 2009, respectively. Preliminary findings and personal observations by the research team shows that the camel milk value chain is short hence easy to manage and control when appropriate and effective interventions are introduced. However, the value chain is steadily expanding with high business and facilitation potential for developing the camel sub-sector. Only a small proportion of the potential of the camel milk industry both at production and marketing level is currently exploited. The national camel milk production is currently estimated to be 300 million litres annually and worth about Kshs 8 billion. More than 50,000 households in arid and semi arid lands (ASAL) directly derive part of their livelihood from camels either through home consumption or commercialization. Majority of households (70%) stay way from manyattas in pursuit of additional economic activities and better living standards. The Somali breed is main breed kept due to its high yielding capacity, other breed kept are Turkana and Pakistan-Somali crossbreeds. The mean number of camels in milk during the dry and wet season is 6 and 8, respectively. The average milk yield per camel per day is 3.8 and 2.5 litres during the wet and dry seasons, respectively. The main means of transport from the milking herds to the primary collection point is either donkey or on foot. This has serious effect on the efficiency of milk delivery in term of quality and time of delivery due to long distances from the milking point to the primary collection points.
This scenario is critical in Kulamawe catchment area where milk is only marketed to Isiolo after every other day due to logistics of raw milk delivery to the Kulamawe centre and Dol Dol catchment area where milk is marketed using expensive and unreliable public transport over 100Km to Nanyuki town. The situation at Kulamawe could easily be averted if the evaporative cooler donated by Vital Camel Dairy is made operational through revitalization and sustainability of the collapsed milk collection group. The mean selling price by producers is Kshs 35 and 30 during the dry and wet season, respectively. There is high potential for increased production in already existing production areas and emerging camel keeping areas like Dol Dol in Laikipia district and GarbaTulla in Isiolo District; hence any intervention to increase production should be directed towards these unexploited areas.
Analysis of the value chain shows that camel milk is currently reaching the markets through three channels and the activity is the domain of women operating in organized women groups. The first channel is the informal marketing channel in which raw milk from camel herds is handled through marketing agents to urban consumers, largely comprising of Somali community in Nairobi urban areas.Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate is the main terminal market for the camel milk, where most of it is bought by household and restaurant retailers and a smaller amount is marketed to other estates in Nairobi and distance markets in Kenya. This channel handles majority (60-75%) of marketed milk from Isiolo and Laikipia districts. The time lapse between production and marketing at terminal market is two days, which necessitates need for cooling facilities in the milk handling and marketing chain. The milk retail price at Eastleigh is Kshs 60 and 100 for restaurants and households, respectively. The contractual arrangements with respects to payments vary among the marketing agents, on average payment period is between 1-2 days.
The Isiolo informal market handles approximately 7000 litres per day and can not met the terminal market demand. The constraints affecting the milk flow through this channel are low hygienic quality of milk, late arrival of milk supplies, low supplies and fluctuating prices.
The second channel is the marketing of raw milk directly by producers (65%) or through intermediaries marketing agents (35%) to rural households and restaurants at local markets and Isiolo and Nanyuki urban areas. The mean retailing price is Kshs 45 and 55 per litre during wet and dry season, respectively. There is high potential for growth of this channels due to movement of other communities into these areas and increased acceptability of camel milk among non-traditional camel milk consumers. The demand is also not met due to low productivity and low supplies.
The third is formal market channel under which pasteurized camel milk is processed for the quality conscious urban and international consumers by Vital Camel Milk Dairy at Nanyuki town. The plant established in 2005 with a capacity of 6000 litres per day is currently operating below its installed capacity due to unwillingness of some pastoralists to supply them with raw milk due to strict hygiene measures demanded by the processor. One ranch (Kisima) bulks milk on the ranch and supplies the dairy after every 2 days. The dairy purchases milk at Kshs 40 and it main market for processed liquid milk is supermarkets in Nairobi and other urban town where the milk retails at Kshs 102 per ½ litres pack. Services rendered by the processor to the suppliers include training on clean milk production, provision of charcoal coolers on credit to enhance shelf-life of raw milk before delivery to the plant and collection of milk at designated points along the chain.
Consumers at all level of marketing expressed dissatisfaction with the price and timeliness of delivery. A survey done at Nakuru, among non traditional camel milk consumers, shows a high willingness to purchase and consume camel milk if made readily available to them. This shows high potential in creating more markets for camel milk among the consumers once the safety and quality is guaranteed.
The emerging value chain structure is shown below.