The young, rapidly growing and vibrant dairy processing industry in Uganda is but a small component of the 9 per cent of national GDP that livestock contributes.
By Molly Nawe Kamukama
Uganda's media has lately been awash with reports of the challenges that dairy farmers are facing finding market for their milk. The dilemma points to a case of producing more milk than can be consumed on the local market.
The question I would like to pose however is whether the milk actually has no market or is it a matter of shelf life of the milk. What is apparent when one ponders this matter further is that farmers are in panic because their milk goes bad as they look for buyers.
This situation is not helped by the fact that one of our biggest buyers of milk in Uganda, our neighbours the Kenyans, currently seems to have second thoughts on taking our product anymore.
What then should we as a country be thinking in terms of addressing the stalemate so that our farmers do not suffer losses anymore?
The young, rapidly growing and vibrant dairy processing industry in Uganda is but a small component of the 9 per cent of national GDP that livestock contributes as per figures recorded in 2014, up from 3.2 per cent recorded between 2009 and 2014.
Majority of farms in Uganda have mixed breeds, whose productivity, although higher than the traditional breeds, does not match that of the exotics. That notwithstanding, figures from the Dairy Development Authority (DDA), indicate that in October 2018, annual national milk output stood at 2.2 billion liters, up from 1.8 billion liters annually, as of July 2012.
The DDA also indicates that as of 2017, per capita milk consumption in Uganda stood at 62 liters, up from 25 liters in 1986. Of the milk produced, 80 per cent is marketed while 20 per cent is consumed by the households. 33 per cent of the marketed milk is processed, while 67 per cent is sold as raw milk.]
By June 2019, annual milk production in the country had risen to 2.4 billion liters, with export earnings from the sector, bringing in US$100 million per year. This, according to DDA has a huge potential to increase to US$500 million annually.
What is heartwarming is that in most parts of the country, milk production is predictable and available all year round with drastic reduction in milk output experienced during the dry season in the northern, northeastern, and eastern parts of the country.
With figures looking so flowery, the magic wand that will transform the dairy industry in Uganda lies in heavy investment concentrated in increasing the amount of milk processed from the 33 per cent figure where it currently stands.
A look around all supermarkets and major outlets in Uganda will reveal how much imported processed milk there is on the market. Our children are being raised feeding on imported formula milk.
Recently, President Yoweri Museveni cited milk production as an under-exploited agricultural product available in large quantities in many parts of Uganda in raw form.
According to the President, because milk is marketed in its raw form, Uganda is burdened with a heavy import bill associated with a product that is domestically abundant.
He noted as I have above that Ugandan shops are awash with imported baby formulae for infants while our own milk is sold at throw-away prices.
What this calls for then is that we as a country must invest heavily in our milk industry to increase the products we get from milk for example baby formulae, ghee among other things that have a long shelf life. This will save the country foreign exchange which is currently being spent on importing milk products to meet the demand of the Ugandan market.
The writer is the Minister of State for Economic Monitoring