Farmers in the Western districts of Kiruhura, Mbarara, Ibanda, Bushenyi and other districts in the cattle corridor have asked the government to find them an all-year-round stable market for milk to protect the dairy sector from collapsing.
Currently, a litre of milk costs Shs500 at farm gate price having reduced from Shs1000 that was being given to farmers in March 2021.
The farmers that Kampala Post talked to expressed dissatisfaction at the income they get from milk sales as compared to how much they invest it to produce the milk.
Norman Nduho Kapaapa, a resident of Rwamuranda in Kanyaryeru Sub-county, Kiruhura district, says after completing his degree in Business Studies from Makerere University a few years ago, he decided to implement President Yoweri Museven’s message of engaging in commercial farming.
He adds that he is however losing interest in the dairy sector because of the unstable market and prices for milk.
“On average, I use about Shs1.2m to run the farm, pay my three workers, buy acaricides, clear the farm and produce improved feeds for the animals. At the moment I am only earning Shs 750,000 from Milk sales per month. This is because the price of milk has really gone down. We are now selling at Shs 500 which cannot cater for the needs of the farmer,” he said.
Kapaapa added that he now has to supplement the income from the milk with income from his other projects like the banana plantation and coffee.
“It's like I am now working to just maintain the farm. I am not getting enough money to cater for the needs of my family like school fees and daily needs. We appreciate the president’s calling to go into commercial farming but we are calling upon him to help us find a stable market for our products,” he added.
Besides low milk prices, he says farmers in the area also face severe drought and poor road network.
As for him, he has a small dam that ensures he has water throughout the year. Another dairy farmer in Kanyanyeru Sub-country Kiruhuru District, George Buracweke, says business is no longer profitable because expenditure on the farm exceeds earnings.
He says whereas he’s spending about Shs600,000 per month, he earns a paltry Shs300,000 from milk sales. “We ask government to intervene and find other markets for our milk so that the price can also go up. We will not be able to sustain milk production if nothing is done,” Mzee Buracweka.
Enock Nuwagira, the General Manager for Lake Mburo Farmers Cooperative Society based in Kiruhura district says in the last two months, they have experienced drastic milk price cuts twice.
“Low milk prices have adversely affected dairy farming as a business. We call for Government intervention. We have been advising farmers to use improved farming methods to improve the quality and quantities of milk but farmers can’t apply best farming practices like applying supplementary feeds when milk prices are often low,” he said.
Milk prices in Ankole region started falling in early 2020 when Kenya banned Lato Milk produced by Pearl Dairy Farms Limited, citing its lack of required standard.
However, this ban on dairy imports from Uganda came after several complaints by Kenyan farmers over the influx of Ugandan milk which was being priced lower than the one produced in their home country.
Uganda produces 2.6 billion litres of milk per annum. However, domestic demand stands at only 800 million litres, creating a huge surplus that foreign markets especially Kenya would consume.