Rising milk prices

Amira Hisham, Thursday 14 Sep 2023

Milk prices in Egypt have been on the rise over recent days, with a kg of buffalo milk selling for LE20 three weeks ago but now selling at LE25 and expected to climb to LE28 in a matter of days.

Rising milk prices
Twenty per cent of Egypt s milk production comes from medium-sized farms


Over the same period, the price of a kg of cow’s milk has risen from LE15 to LE20, with expectations that it will increase to LE22 in the coming days.

One woman who comes from the countryside to Cairo to sell milk and dairy products said she attributed the rising prices of milk to factors including reduced production, often the case in the summer months, and increases in the cost of fodder.

There is also increased demand for milk and milk products, especially with the start of the school season.

Meanwhile, the price of packaged milk has surged to LE40, rising from LE30 in August.

Cairo hypermarkets are selling various brands of milk at discounted prices, cutting the price of a kg of milk to between LE30 and LE35, with a maximum limit of five packages per customer.

According to Abdel-Rashid Ghanem, coordinator of the Dairy Department at the Ministry of Agriculture, 10 per cent of Egypt’s milk production comes from model farms that adhere to international standards and are equipped with advanced cooling and animal-feed systems.

They are fully mechanised and maintain stable production throughout the year, regardless of the season.

Twenty per cent of Egypt’s domestic milk production comes from medium-sized farms, Ghanem said, each housing 15 to 50 livestock producing milk. However, their production decreases by 25 per cent in the summer months due to the absence of a mechanised cooling system, which is necessary to maintain the ideal temperature for milk-producing animals.

The majority of milk production — the remaining 70 per cent — comes from small-scale farmers who own anywhere from one to five animals, Ghanem said.

Stabilising the country’s milk production can run up against the practices of small-scale farmers, who time the breeding of their livestock so that calves are born during the hay season that takes place in October and allowing the farmers to ensure an adequate supply of feed for both the newly born calves and their mothers.

It is more cost-effective for farmers to rely on locally grown grass hay rather than purchasing imported fodder. However, milk production drops significantly in the preceding months due to the summer heat.

Ghanem said that one of the main reasons behind the price discrepancy between packaged and non-packaged milk was that the paper used to make milk containers is imported and priced in dollars. It is designed for ultra-high temperature treatment to preserve the milk for four to six months, and the cost of the packaging is added to the final product.

Egypt cannot produce this packaging domestically.

Essam Galhoum, head of the Grocery and Foodstuffs Division at the Menoufiya Chamber of Commerce, said that supply shortages in the market occur annually during the summer months.

However, this year prices have increased significantly, he said, possibly because large companies, faced with rising prices for powdered milk, have shifted to using natural milk in their manufacturing. This has increased demand for natural milk over that in previous years.

A 25 kg package of powdered milk now costs LE5,000 due to a recent 30 per cent price increase, with the cost per kg rising to LE334 from LE250.

Galhoum said that the prices of imported dairy products have also surged. A kg of flamenco cheese has risen from LE120 to LE500, for example, and cheddar cheese has risen from LE100 to LE400 per kg.

These increases have led consumers to turn to white cheese and local products.

Ghanem said that the government is committed to importing high-yield dairy cattle with genetic improvements from Brazil by 2024 as part of Egypt’s entry into the BRICS group of countries.

Brazil was chosen due to its similarly hot climate, ensuring that the imported cattle will be well-suited to the Egyptian climate and capable of producing large quantities of milk, he said.

Egypt’s current milk production averages 6.5 million tons, all of which is consumed domestically. The per capita share is 75 litres per year, a lower figure when compared to other countries like Canada (85 litres), New Zealand (96 litres), and the UK (112 litres).

The government aims to increase the per capita milk consumption to improve public health, and it does not intend to develop the export market, Ghanem said.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 14 September, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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