By Ronald Kalyango
A total of 31 cooperatives drawn from different parts of the country have been given 450 milk cans by Dairy Development Authority (DDA) to minimise on the post-harvest handling losses associated with transporting milk using jerrycans.
“Milk and dairy products are perishable, in essence we must be mindful of how we handle it to ensure that its shelf life is prolonged and consumers access good quality and safe products,” noted Bright Rwamirama, state minister for animal husbandry.
He was on Thursday speaking at the handing over ceremony of the cans (100 cans of 50 litre capacity and 350 cans of 20 litre capacity) at the DDA offices in Kampala.
“It’s the good quality, value addition that lead to long shelf life and market access, therefore our role as government is to ensure that things are done in the right direction. If we don’t access the market our farmers will remain poor and the entire value chain will be affected,” he explained.
The cans which cost sh89m are to be distributed to farmers on a cost sharing basis. Under this arrangement, beneficiaries made a contribution of 30% of the cost of the milk cans.
“Their contribution has been ploughed back into the revolving fund to ensure sustainability of the intervention,” explained Katureebe Bernadette the chairperson of DDA’s board of directors.
Katureebe noted that dairy farmers need to be supported to overcome the challenges associated with the expensive farm inputs which in the long run make the cost of production high.
“The result has been the temptation by our farmers to use plastic jerry cans to handle milk. This practice is detrimental to both the quality and the safety of the milk handled,” she explained.
She, however, explained that despite their interventions, farmers still lose about 17% of their milk produced through post-harvest losses.
“This is mainly due to poor milk handling, poor hygiene and use of non-food grade utensils like jerrycans,” he noted.
DDA’s executive director, Dr. Jolly Zaribwende said that the country has 437 rural milk collection centres collecting about 1.5 million litres of milk per day.
She explained that government has a duty to ensure that the dairy sector is regulated for quality assurance, fair play and market access through value addition.
“The improvements in the entire value chain have been gradual but sure. Our farmers who work hard day and night to produce milk need value for their products and consumers too need safe and good quality products,” she noted.
Much as the beneficiaries expressed gratitude over the government’s gesture, they noted that they need more cans to transport their milk from their farms to the collection centres.
“We are willing to contribute at least 50% of the total cost of the cans such that more cans are distributed to farmers on a cost sharing basis,” explained Polly Matsiko, the chairperson of Ntungamo dairy farmers cooperative.
Constance Okwir, a dairy farmer from Bweyogerere noted that they were supported with heifers by Heifer International and over the years, their association boasts of increased milk production but have fewer cans to transport their milk.
“The support from government has been long overdue. Imagine our association constitutes of 300 women and have been transporting their milk using jerry cans,” explained Okwir.
The chairperson of Rubuguri dairy cooperative in Kisoro district; Wilberforce Muchunguzi, noted that the support would enable them address issues associated with post-harvest losses.
“We are grateful for the support but we need more milk cans to transport milk to the collection centres. Our association has more than 300 farmers but they are using jerrycans to transport milk and yet this is against DDA’s regulations,” explained Muchunguzi.