In September last year, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi gave the green light to a national plan to establish new milk collection centres countrywide and to upgrade the existing network.
Although Egypt has fewer dairy-producing livestock than some other regional countries, notably Sudan, it has enough livestock to ensure near self-sufficiency in dairy products.
The national plan targets developing existing milk collection centres and increasing their number. The centres act as marketing outlets for small livestock owners and a clean means to transfer their production to factories producing dairy products. Under the plan, the centres will acquire international standard certificates with a view to also increasing the export of dairy products, said Abdel-Rashid Ghanem, coordinator of development at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Dairy Centre.
“The number of direct and indirect employees working in the dairy sector and their families is estimated at 30 million, working on about 30,000 small and medium-sized farms. This is in addition to small livestock owners who may have one or two dairy-producing livestock, workers who produce dairy and cheese-making equipment, and workers in major associated industries such as cooling, transport, and preservation equipment,” Ghanem said.
Marwa Salem, marketing director at a Swiss dairy company in Egypt, said the country had produced 6.301 billion litres of milk in 2018-19. Some 5.424 billion litres were used in the manufacture of dairy products such as cheese, which consumed 3.878 billion litres of total production.
Of the remaining 877 million litres of milk, five million litres were exported. Some 39.2 million litres were also imported, bringing the total domestic consumption of milk to 911 million litres.
Consumer confidence in local packaged dairy products contributed to raising consumption from 20 per cent in 2007 to 35 per cent in 2013, 49.9 per cent in 2018, and 50.8 per cent in 2019.
Ghanem said the recently announced three-year plan targets developing 826 milk collection centres to international standards. The first year will see the upgrading of 200 centres, the second of 313, and the third also of 313.
The centres will employ the Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points (HACCP) system of food safety, Ghanem stated, adding that “the Italian RINA Company that implements the HACCP system was contracted following the government decision to shoulder the cost of the system, some LE50,000 for each plant, in order to encourage the owners of the collection centres to be part of the new system.”
Egypt’s dairy plants are among the small and medium-sized enterprises that benefit from the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) initiative to grant loans at a five per cent interest rate.
The Ministry of Agriculture has agreed with the CBE on offering facilities to the owners of these centres, and the Ministry of Military Production will manufacture equipment locally.
“The government is offering a host of facilities and grants for the development of these plants and to enable them to acquire the HACCP system, including providing loans at an interest rate of five per cent for plants being developed and those under construction, facilitating the buying of milk from producers, and increasing the period in which loans must be paid off to eight years,” Ghanem said.
Abdel-Raouf Al-Gohari, a livestock expert, said the state should also supervise the pricing of dairy products in the stages between the farmer and the plants, increasing their value in order to create incentives for small livestock owners to expand their businesses.
This would help to increase Egypt’s total livestock and enable the country to bridge the gap in the local consumption of milk and the need for imports, estimated at five million tons on an annual basis.
Al-Gohari said large milk collection centres should be expanded and further investment of LE5 million each should be provided in order to upgrade them to international standards. Plant owners should also shoulder some of the cost in order to increase capacity, he added.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 18 March, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly