The dairy plant currently produces only 50kg a day given quality of milk which is expected to improve through training of farmers 

Dairy: In another two to three years, the Kofoku International Pvt Ltd (KIPL) dairy-processing plant at Chenari in Trashigang expects to operate at full capacity.

Currently operating at only 20 percent of its potential, KIPL is a joint venture between DHI and Japanese counterpart SNBL. SNBL is the majority partner with a 70 percent holding while DHI holds 30 percent.

The formal inauguration of KIPL was graced by HRH The Gyaltsab Jigme Dorji Wangchuck on September 24.

Although KIPV has a capacity to produce 400kg of gouda cheese in a day, the plant produces only 50kg today. Associate project manager, Satomi Matsui attributed the low production to the quality of milk.

For instance, she said that while the bacteria load per millilitre of milk should be 100,000cfu (colony forming unit), the bacteria load of the milk supplied by dairy groups of Trashigang comes to 500,000cfu.

Hence, the milk has to be pasteurised at 80 degrees for 30 seconds to bring down the bacteria load. Despite the pasteurisation, the process doesn’t kill all of the bacteria.

“Therefore, we have to dispose off 80 percent of the cheese and use only the remaining 20 percent,” she said. “So, to improve the quality of milk, hygienic practice by the farmers is very necessary.”

This also means that excluding the operating costs the plant is currently running at a loss of about Nu 0.45 million every month solely on milk purchases while the incomes comes to about Nu 50,000.

Satomi Matsui said that the plant collects 500 litres of milk everyday although the required intake is 4,000 litres. Without the farmers taking up hygienic practices, it wouldn’t be possible to meet the required quantity, she said.

In the near future, she said, KIPL has plans to supply small chillers to those villages without one and are quite far from the collection points.

“But we would require immense support from the Department of Livestock (DoL) to improve the quality of milk and plans are there to seek support from JICA through DoL,” she said.

Program Director of the Regional Livestock Development Centre (NLDC), Khangma, Dr Tshering Dorjee said that Trashigang has only a few farmers who could meet the quality standards of KIPL for supply of milk.

“We have 177 members supplying milk and a potential of chipping in another 1,800 farmers from four eastern dzongkhags,” he said. “Right now, the production capacity is about 4,600 litres a day but we don’t have adequate resources and facilities to improve milk quality.”

The focus right now, he said, is on improving the quality by training farmers for capacity building. On the other hand, quality is also being affected by cross contamination during collection and transportation, said Dr Tshering Dorjee.

“With advocacy programmes and hands-on-training programmes, our farmers should be able to supply 4,000 litres of milk every day in another two to three years,” he said.

A major objective of KIPL is to reduce the import of processed cheese like Amul and Britannia cheese with the locally produced natural gouda cheese. Should there be any left overs, gouda cheese can be further ripened to produce processed cheese as well.

Meanwhile, Satomi Matsui said that the initial idea was to go for yogurt production. However, with yogurt not consumed as much by Bhutanese, the plan was reviewed and it was decided that gouda cheese be produced because it would also help the farmers.

So, after carrying out feasibility studies in 2011, the construction started in 2013 and was completed in March this year. From July, KIPL started marketing gouda cheese to Thimphu, Trashigang and Japan. Until now, 155kg of Gouda cheese has been sold.

Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang