MAA 2020

French firm seeks to introduce solar-powered milk coolers to help cut farmers’ losses

Serap, a France-based firm specialising in designing and manufacturing milk cooling tanks, has expressed interest in establishing presence in Rwanda to provide affordable milk cooling facilities powered by solar energy.

The move will help safeguard milk quality and safety making it fetch better prices and competitiveness in the market, according to Ali Haidar, the Firm’s Area sales manager for milk coolers in Africa and Middle East.

Haidar made the revelation on Friday, in Kigali on the sidelines of a cocktail event that brought together French agribusiness delegation and Rwandan agribusiness entrepreneurs.

The five-member delegation represented FilClair, the manufacturer of hi-tech greenhouses; Boccard, a major player in the implementation of industrial plant; Allflex, which is engaged in livestock intelligence and animal identification.

In November last year, Mukamira Dairy in Nyabihu District rejected about 10,000 litres of milk that went bad, according to Nyabihu Dairy Farmer Cooperatives’ Union.

Others are AXEMA, a French professional organisation bringing together more than 240 manufacturers of tractors and agricultural machines; Serap; as well as Adepta – a French agro-industry association gathering more than 200 companies.

The visit was facilitated by Adepta. Isabelle Kouamo, Adepta Area Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa, said the delegation was in Rwanda on a three-day visit with main purpose is to understand the setup of the agribusiness market and opportunities therein.

Haidar said he is in Rwanda to gather information on daily sector in Rwanda and to understand how the milk collection business is set up and built, who the main actors here are and to establish the needs of the dairy industry as well as farmers in the country.

“Sometimes, a farmer milks the cow and will wait for two hours until he will transport the milk to the milk collection centre. The milk is hot such as at 35 degrees, and the climate is hot. So, the milk is fermenting, and every 20 minutes, the number of germs in the milk doubles, and the quality of milk is deteriorating,” he said as he explains an instance of impact of lack of effective cooling system to the milk.

The remedy to the problem, he said, is very quick cooling, and to do this, you need to have cold system just near the farm, or at the farm itself.

“And we have some new equipment that are actually very low energy consuming, and they can be run easily by solar or normal single-phase electric power,” he said.

“And with this equipment, you can cool the milk very very quickly, just near the cow, so that each farmer will become like a milk hub, and all these milk hubs farmers will deliver the cold milk to the milk collection centres,” he said.

Now, he said, they are looking for partners to implement such a project in Rwanda, adding that they have already done the same in Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya and Uganda.

In November last year, Mukamira Dairy in Nyabihu District rejected about 10,000 litres of milk that went bad, which was a demotivation to farmers, according to Nyabihu Dairy Farmer Cooperatives’ Union.

Moreover, over 3,500 litres of milk was rejected at Savannah Dairy in Nyagatare District in November 26, 2018, according to figures from the National Federation of Dairy Farmers.

Serap company cooling equipment run by solar power are completely adapted to the small holder farmers, such as those owning one or two cows.

“It’s a very good solution for the little farmers on the field, who are very far away in the countryside, don’t have vehicles, and are somehow isolated. It gives the power to the farmer to keep their milk safe for consumption and then can sell it easily,” she said.

François Nsengiyumva, Chairperson of Rwanda Chamber of Agriculture and Livestock at Private Sector Federation said that the technology could help address the issue of farmers’ milk produce that was subject to rejection by milk collection centres and agro-processing industries over falling short of standards.

“They have a technology which can be distributed among farmers countrywide which does not require electricity and uses milk cans that use solar energy to cool milk. As soon as you have milked a cow, you pour the milk into a container that keeps it safe from fermentation. This will help us achieve quality of milk produce which has been being rejected when it was taken to milk collection centres or factories,” he observed.

Nsengiyumva added that Rwandan farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs are keen to learn from and adopt French firms’ technologies including growing vegetables in controlled environment under greenhouses.

This will ensure sustainable production and increase productivity, postharvest handling of agricultural produce as well as agro processing for value addition, and proper management of livestock to increase milk yield among others.