Mechanical Cows For Kenya? New Milk ATM Pumps Dairy For Cheap In Eldoret

 
on September 13 2013 3:16 PM
Eldoret, Kenya
A farmer works in his field at the Kondo farm in Eldoret 400km (248 miles) west of the capital Nairobi, April 27, 2010 REUTERS / Noor Khamis

A new machine in the Kenyan town of Eldoret is bringing pasteurized milk to the people in an unprecedented way.

The Anytime Milk Machine -- yes, that's ATM for short -- allows customers to purchase milk straight form the mechanized nozzle. It's cheaper since consumers don't have to pay for the packaging, though they can purchase disposable plastic containers if they don't have their own.

The system is also cost effective because it bypasses the middle men -- major diary firms -- and pumps milk directly from farms to coolers for pasteurization, from which point it goes straight to the vending machine, which can hold 3,000 liters of dairy daily.

Eldoret businessman Charles Boit is behind the project. He told Kenya's Standard Digital that he hopes the ATM will discourage people from buying raw milk on the street, which is not always safe for consumption.

“We are trying to avoid situations where hawkers are delivering milk to customers under poor conditions that pose serious health risks," Boit said. "The system allows a closed process where milk is pasteurized and transferred to the ATM machine without coming into direct contact with humans."

The timing couldn't be better. Kenya just introduced a 16 percent value-added tax on milk, starting on Sept. 2, which increased prices by about $0.08 per half liter. That came on top of already high prices as a result of drought and high demand.

The tax has elicited outrage, especially among lower-income Kenyans for whom groceries were already difficult to afford. "Taxing the value addition to milk as if it was any other commodity damages the health of the nation especially the most vulnerable, children and the poor," said one recent editorial in The Star, a Kenyan newspaper. "But perhaps the intention is to encourage parents to give their children soda."

At the new ATM machine in Eldoret, pasteurized milk costs about $0.68 per liter, compared to about $1.08 for the same quantity, packaged, in a market. That's quite a difference, especially in a country where more than one-third of the population lives in poverty.

Early feedback to the unique project seems positive, which bodes well for Boit's ambitions to test the waters for his odd ATM machines in other locations across the city, and perhaps the country.

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