By Leonard Mukooli
The Dairy Development Authority has embarked on reviving the dairy industry in eastern and northeastern Uganda, with sh1.2b earmarked to revitalise the dairy plant in Mbale city that collapsed next month.
This was revealed by Samson Akankiza Mpiira, the acting executive director of the authority, during a monitoring inspection tour of their properties in the northeastern region, where Karamoja, Teso, Bugisu and Sebei fall.
Akankiza said the authority aims at increasing the production of good quality milk for consumption, both locally and externally through exports.
Although the eastern and northeastern were predominantly cattle corridors in the past, the dynamics shifted with the insurgencies in the 1980s and early 1990s, where most homes lost their animals to the war, causing retrogression in the sector.
Akankiza revealed that the authority is establishing all the necessary incentives that will see an improvement in the dairy value chain.
“We are cognisant of the importance of the dairy industry for the livelihood of people and thus want to revive it in the region with the renovation of milk collection centres and revitalisation of the dairy plant in Mbale city.
“There is affirmative action by the Government through the Dairy Development Authority to increase the production of milk in the eastern and northeastern milk shade because these account for 30% of the current milk production of the country with a large chuck coming from the midwest and southwestern parts,” he said.
He noted that the authority had started rehabilitating various milk collection centres, starting with those in the Teso sub-region from where they will move on to other areas.
“We have earmarked sh1.2b. We want to revive the Mbale plant and rehabilitate it so as to support farmers by ensuring that there is a readily available market for their milk. We intend to start with yoghurt production in the first line with a target of 150 litres per day. Other products will come on board as production expands,” Akankiza noted.
State of collection centres
The retired Rev. Sandrah Mwebaze Mugenyi, the chairperson of the board of the Uganda Dairy Development Authority, said milk collection centres in the region are in a dire state and, therefore, need rehabilitation in order to revive the dairy industry in the region.
“We have several milk collections centres that we inherited from Diary Corporation during the time of privatisation. However, they have been run down,” Mwebaze said.
She said there is a bright future for the industry in the region since the already rehabilitated milk collection centres have begun to receive milk in large quantities from farmers.
“We have had a positive response from the people in the villages, who have shown us the will and desire to use the facilities being established with the hope that this will enable them to earn more money to foster their individual development,” Mwebaze said.
Joreon Bluijs, a Dutch farmer based in Mbale city, said dairy farming is a lucrative business.
However, it is labour-intensive and requires one to have enough land if it is to make commercial sense.
He noted Bugisu has a challenge of land fragmentation that doesn’t enable farmers to have more than one or two animals.
If one is to have more, it will be expensive for them to feed.
He said the biggest challenge is acquiring good quality milk from other farmers since most of them dilute the milk, a practice that he says is not good for the industry.
“The market is readily available, but the challenge is the quality of milk. Sometimes customers are disappointed with milk thus shunning our local product, but once the mindset of the people is tuned to the right path, the industry will thrive,” Bluijs observes. Jane Francis Achalo, who represents farmers on the board, also noted that the biggest challenges farmers in Teso face are the shortage of water due to the prolonged drought, insecurity from Karamoja, livestock chronic diseases and over-reliance on local breeds of animals, among others as people have a deeprooted perception that dairy animals do not fare well in the region.
“If people are educated on feed conservation locally and adopt exotic breeds of dairy cattle, invest in water conservation facilities and improvement of security, we shall have abundant milk and people will be lifted out of poverty,” Achalo said.
The northeastern milk shade has an estimated 4.4 million cattle with Karamoja having 62.3% of them followed by Teso (26.6%) Bugisu (7.8%) and Sebei (3.3%). Estimated milk production is 393.6 million litres with Karamoja having 47.6%, Teso 30.6%, Bugisu 16.5% and Sebei 5.3%. The average farm gate milk price is sh1,000 with the retail one ranging between sh1,600 and sh2,000.