Cameroon faces deficit in milk production
James Achanyi-Fontem, Coordinator – WABA MWG
The place occupied in the the equilebrium of the nutrition needs of a human being very visible, as it remains a noble natural need from birth and even when a person become old with deficiencies. Many nutritionists see milk as a priority element nutrition protection.
Cameroon produces approximately 170.000 tonnes of milk each year, but this far from the national demand put at 300.000 tonnes. Due the shortage, some CFA 20 Billions is spent on milk impotation. The paradox is that Cameroon disposes of enormous potentials that can cover the national needs and even export to other countries of the Central African sub region.
According to specialists of the ministry of livestock, fisheries and industries, it is in the interest of Cameroon to produce sufficient milk, because it disposes of needed natural and human potentials to realize it. Statistics of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, show that Cameroon possesses nearly 6.000.000 cows and its milk production is realized with non specialized breeds, that represent about 20 per cent of the milk production cows in the country.
With the non specialized breed, the cows produce only one or two litres of milk a day and this varies from season to season and environment within a period of 150 days in the year. In special cases and environments, cows produce up to five litres of milk a day.
It is with this analysis that the national production potential is estimated at 270.000 tonnes, though the figures have stabilized at 125.000 tonnes for several years. The level of production leaves each inhabitant of Cameroon only with 8kgs of milk in the year, instead of the world standard of 45kgs per inhabitant each.
In the European communities, the consumption of milk is close to 93 kgs per inhabitant each year and this easily illustrates the deficit faced by Cameroon in its milk production strategies. On the other hand, milk products locally made are even worse as only 6.6kgs are consumed per inhabitant each year. This reamins far below the recommended nutrition norm of 20 grames of animal proteins per person a day. There is no doubt that this constitutes a real infringement in the human development in Cameroon.
To close the gap, the government organizes massive importation of milk and milk products from several parts of the world. The principal products imported include powder milks, sterilized milks, pastorized and creamed milks, concentrated milks, butters, creams, yaourts, just to name a few found in our markets.
However, powder milks constitute the principal imported product for the local industrial transformation units in the big cities of Cameroon. Approximately 13.000 tonnes are imported yearly according to officials of the ministry of livestock, fisheries and industries. Through this, the country gives away approximately CFA 30 Billions in importation cost, insurance and transport charges in 2007 alone.
From 2007, it would be noted, the international market prices increased on imported products. The current reflection is on how cameroon can face the situation through national production of this very fragile product and others with the respect of international norms of treatment and conservation in adequate hygienic conditions.
The truth is that, the Cameroon market has been invaded by imported milk powders from France and The Netherlands and Singapore. Though importation and code montioring instruments put in place by the government, no real rules are respected as distribution and marketing penetrates forbidden zones and territories.
Of the 16 different types of powder milks found in the Cameroon market, 10 come from either Europe of the Far East countries, with most of them falling under the infant and young child feeding artificial formulae brackets. As if it is a competition of dumping, the super markets are invaded by Guigoz, SMA, Nan, Alma, Blédina, Nursie and so on. A tin or packet of these different products vary between CFA 2.500 and CFA 2.800.
The aggressive marketing is equivalently affecting powder milk for the old persons like Nestlé’s Nido, that keeps changing packaging to draw a wider consumer target. Most of the creamed and concentrated milks sold in Cameroon come from Lituania, New Zealand, France, Singapor, Malaysia, Thailand and so on. This group of milks cost between CFA 2.200 and CFA 2.800 a tin or packet of 450 g in the super market.
As the prices of formulae increase and international code monitors advocate for the respect of the rules by milk production and distribution companies, a market crisis entered the nest, as whole sale agents complaint that formulae is almost lossing the race in Cameroon.
Unfortunately, not all companies respect the rules of the game, as some market delegates now seize the opportunity to buy the heart of nurses and paediatricians, who simply refuse to adhere to the national code regulations put in circulation by the Prime Minister in December 2005. This code forbids any advertizing of any formulae brand in health facilities throughout the country.
In Cameroon hospitals, breastmilk substitute manufacturers and distributors put money first before the health of babies. Health facility managers allow company delegates to advertize their milk brands in hospital halls and on doors of essential medicine prescribers. This only tells the story about why most of our hospitals are refused the « Baby Friendly Hospital Label » by WHO and UNICEF. Cameroon has zero Baby Friendly Hospital according to the latest international rating compared to its neighbours.
The government has put in place all the necessary monitoring instruments. As we cry of milk shortages, we should also think about the future of the leaders of tomorrow, who are the babies of today. Let us put health first and money after.
For this to happen, the government should urgently put in place a national code monitoring commission, that would enforce the code with the application of sanctions. The current code violations have extended to poor labelling and misinformation of mothers.