By Innocent Anguyo
MINISTER of State for Agriculture, Animal Industry & Fisheries Lt. Col (Rtd) Bright Rwamirama has warned the public against purchasing loose milk sold by vendors, saying such is adulterated with water and hydrogen peroxide - a chemical which when consumed in excess can cause health complications such as cancer.
"By purchasing the loose milk, consumers will be fuelling the vice. I urge all Ugandans to purchase milk that is packaged and bears the hallmarks of the related national standards bodies," says Rwamirama.
The minister notes that adulteration of milk is not only endangering the health of Ugandans but equally a ploy to cheat consumers in terms of quality.
Rwamirama nevertheless notes that government is developing a statutory instrument to plug holes riddling the dairy industry- including adulteration.
Ban on sale of loose milk looming
He further reveals that government will soon expand the ban on vending of loose milk to cover all parts of country- in a bid to secure the health of more Ugandans. The ban currently affects Kampala.
He made the remarks on Tuesday at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala, while announcing the program for this year's National Diary Quality Awards scheduled for April 17, at Hotel Africa in Kampala.
Rwamirama was flanked by Dr. Jolly Zaribwende, the executive director of the Diary Development Authority-the lead institution in organising the awards.
Ugandan yet to meet WHO milk consumption quantity
It has equally emerged that Uganda's per capita consumption of milk has grown from 46litres in 2013 to the current 60litres, a figure which still leaves the country 140 litres below the 200 litres recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Rwamirama cites-malnutrition in children; weak bones in adults; dental diseases and protein deficiency as some of the implications of low consumption of milk on the health of Ugandans.
Uganda's milk production has registered a growth from about 1.86 billion litres in 2012 to about 2billion litres today.
This growth in yield has aided a sharp rise in Uganda's earnings from export of milk and dairy products from $20m (about 58.6b) in 2012 to $28m (82.1b) last year.
Rwamirama attributes the growth to increasingly government emphasis on the dairy industry.
Government recently identified diary as one of the ten commodities as priority enterprises in the development strategy and investment plan- a five-year blue print meant to revolutionalise Uganda's agrarian sector.
If the current production speed is sustained, Rwamirama says export earnings from milk and dairy products are projected to rake in $50m (about sh146.7b) for Uganda by the end of this year.
He identifies the major export destinations of Ugandan dairy products as- all East African Community countries, Southern Sudan, Mauritius, Nigeria, Middle East and the United States.
Uganda currently boasts 76 diary processing plants categorised as large, medium, and small and cottage- with a total installed capacity of 2,069,300 litres per day.
The new milk processing plants that have joined the industry include Pearl Diary Farm Ltd, Amos Dairies, Trust Diary Farm Ltd and Vital Tomosis Uganda Ltd.
However, since majority of the large and medium size plants currently process milk under one shift, Rwamirama says they process up to three million litres per day under double processing shifts- something he is advocating for.
Milk as food
Other than being a source of foreign exchange, Rwamirama also notes that the dairy industry plays a critical role in ensuring national food security through the diverse range of its products-pasteurised milk, UHT milk, yoghurt, butter, ice cream, ghee, cheese, milk powder and casein.
"Dairy industry also provides employment and household income for millions of people. This sector directly benefits more than two million households, majority of whom are in rural communities," says Rwamirama.
To be held under the theme 'commitment to quality for better returns', this year's awards will recognise contribution of outstanding stakeholders along the entire dairy value chain, with emphasis on- productivity, quality and adherence to set standards.