The four-month long dry spell that has hit most parts of the country has sent shock waves across the main milk producing regions, pushing up milk prices.
Dairy farming is concentrated in 42 districts found in the cattle corridor that stretches from southwestern Uganda through the central region to the northeastern part of the country. Over 60% of the households in the cattle corridor keep livestock.
A survey conducted in supermarkets and retail shops in Kampala indicated that the price of fresh milk has shot up from sh1,000 to between sh1,800 and sh2,000 per liter, while the pasteurised packaged milk such as Jesa, Fresh Dairy and Mama Milk went up from sh2,000 to between sh2,200 and sh2,600 per liter, depending on the location.
Officials from the Dairy Development Authority (DDA) said the dry spell has forced dairy farmers to seek alternative means to feed their animals.
Statistics indicate that milk production in Uganda is estimated at one billion litres annually. The demand for processed milk is estimated at 400 million litres per year.
About 70% of the total annual production of 1.5 billion litres is marketed, while 30% is consumed by the producing households.
The authority’s executive director, Dr. Jolly Zaribwende, says Uganda’s milk production has reached over 1.6 billion litres annually.
Josephine Mbabazi, a milk seller in Luzira, said milk supplies have reduced drastically due to low production.
“Our suppliers tell us that lack of pasture and water for the animals has led to low production, yet the demand has remained constant. When the farmers incur more expenses, they increase milk prices, forcing us to also increase so as to make a profit,” she said.
Mbabazi noted that her customers have reduced.
“The number of people buying milk has reduced. Only a few of them can afford the milk,” she said.
Hakim Mubiru, a maize brand seller in Kisenyi said the drought has pushed up prices of maize bran that is used for cattle feed. “When the drought persists, everything goes up. Our main buyers, the cattle farmers, get affected as well,” Mubiru said.
He said a kilogramme of maize bran that used to cost sh300 five months ago is now selling at between sh600 and sh800 a kilogramme.
Dinesh Kumar from Sameer Agriculture and Livestock said Uganda’s milk processing plants and mini dairies have a combined annual capacity of 108,515 tonnes (average of 297,300 litres per day)
According to DDA, the capacity of most dairy plants stands at about 300,000 liters per day.
“Domestic production is not sufficient to meet market demand. Uganda also exports dairy products to the regional market. This has also led to the price increase,” said an official from Jesa.
Steven Aikiriza, the DDA coordinator for southwestern Uganda, said the situation is becoming direr as the dry spell persists.
“A litre of processed milk in our region is now at sh1,200. In the villages, the farm gate price is between sh800 and sh900. Farmers in remote places are getting as low as sh700. Middlemen are paid sh1,000 by the milk trader, so the sh1200 does not entirely go to the farmer.”
Aikiriza adds that some farmers have no milk to sell.
“We are trying to encourage farmers to keep high quality grass and fodder. We are also trying to urge them to preserve their water,” he says.
J.K. Ruhombe of the Renaissance Livestock Farmers Network says with better preparation, the farmers would not be suffering as much as they are.
“Whether it is raining or shining, you should not be affected much if you are a modern farmer. Otherwise, we would have no dairy farmers in places such as Egypt and Lebanon. Our farmers need to adopt better water and grass storage mechanisms,” he says.