Dairy farmers countrywide have reason to smile after the government found an alternative market for their milk in Zambia.
Since December 27, 2019, Kenyan authorities have blocked Uganda’s milk and dairy products citing poor quality, claims Kampala refutes.
As a result, the Government of Uganda has been searching for an alternative market outside the East African Community.
The minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), Mr Frank Tumwebaze, at the weekend flagged off the first consignment of 50 tonnes of powdered milk destined for Zambia.
The Zambian Coca-Cola Beverages Limited has made an order of 700 metric tonnes of powdered milk each year from Pearl Dairies Uganda.
“I congratulate Pearl Dairies Company for investing in a state-of-the art processing plant with the capacity to process 800,000 litres of milk every day and this will go a long way in supporting our farmers,” Mr Tumwebaze said.
He urged countries that doubt Uganda’s capacity to produce quality products to come and investigate the matter by themselves.
“People deny us market for our milk and dairy products on account of quality, we are ready to be inspected. Pearl Dairy is an example of one of the good investments. Let them come,” he said.
“Zambia sent us their inspectors here that is why they were able to certify that this is the best product in the region for them to take” Mr Tumwebaze added.
Beans, maize on agenda
The minister further explained that after finding market for milk, they are turning to beans and maize, urging farmers to address issues about quality.
“The milk value chain in Uganda is slightly ahead of other enterprises because the people in the business listen to the market dictates, so we need to follow up with beans and maize. This business of growing maize anywhere and handling it anyhow is an issue we need to look into seriously,” Mr Tumwebaze said
The acting executive director of Dairy Development Authority, Mr Samson Akankiza Mpiira, said the government will continue to exploit other markets for Uganda’s milk and its products.
“We are also looking at alternative markets such that we do not rely on EAC alone. So milk to Zambia will help in many ways to reduce post-harvest loss because most of the farmers have not been milking in the evening and even those that milk, the buyers give them little price because only 33 percent of milk produced is processed,” he said.
Mr Akankiza urged farmers to take advantage of the Zambia offer and penetrate the market in southern Africa.
Mr Bhasker Kotecha, the chairperson of Midland Group of Companies Limited, the owners of Pearl Dairy Farms Limited that produce Lato Milk, said since the EAC market was disrupted in 2019, they have been struggling to remain afloat.
“We are grateful to the government of Uganda for finding solution to our problem of milk importation to EAC, which has been the largest market for us in Africa” Mr Kotecha said.
Mr Akankiza urged Ugandans to consume more milk so as to create a local market in the country and improve productivity.
“Per capita consumption is at 63 litres per person per year but the recommendation from the World Health Organisation is at least 200 litres per person per year. So we are behind in terms of consumption even in East African countries because Kenya is at 150 litres and Tanzania is around 131 litres, almost double our consumption as a country.”
Kenya-Uganda milk wars
At least 3,000 bags of powdered milk and packets of Lato Milk were on December 27, 2019, seized by Kenyan authorities on claims that the milk had been smuggled in the country without paying taxes.
Later on, Kenya blocked Uganda’s milk and dairy products, particularly Lato Milk, on claims that Ugandan companies are exporting counterfeit and substandard products.
According to DDA, in the Financial Year 2019/2020, Uganda produced 2.8b litres of milk, 52 percent of which come from western Uganda.