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Milk production surge drives up farmers’ income

John Gethi (L), the Fresh Dairy director of milk procurement, awards Florence Kente, a farmer from Bulemezi dairy group, with a chaff cutter

John Gethi (L), the Fresh Dairy director of milk procurement, awards Florence Kente, a farmer from Bulemezi dairy group, with a chaff cutter

Dairy farmers in Uganda are smiling to the bank after their pay from milk processor Fresh Dairy shot up from Shs 60bn in 2016 to Shs 70bn last year – a signal of growing fortunes for the sub-sector, according to the company.

Fresh Dairy said in statement: “Investment in a robust livestock extension programme had begun to bear the fruits, with more of its contracted farmers adopting climate-resilient dairy practices to grow milk production.”

Farmers’ fortunes in the dairy industry come as a result of impressive growth in milk production countrywide. Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos) reports in the 2017 statistical abstract that from 2012 to 2016 milk production surged to 1.7bn litres from 1.4bn litres.

Last year, production touched 1.8bn litres, say official data. Even with these figures, the statistics body says some farmers are still using traditional means and are battling climate change effects with prolonged droughts that at times impact on production.

John Gethi, Fresh Dairy’s director of milk procurement, said they were preparing farmers to confront such conditions with practices such as preparation of animal feed, water harvesting and storage to ensure that milk production remains optimum even during periods of depressed rain.

“We are working with all our contracted dairy groups to see to it that climate-smart dairy practices are used across all dairy sheds in the country,” Gethi said during a field day in Mubende attended by dairy farmers from the central region.

Gethi said they had made upgrades in their raw milk collection infrastructure, with rehabilitation of existing cooling centres and establishment of new ones closer to farmers.

“This year alone we have spent more than $15 million for both cooling centre expansion and upgrades at our Kampala factory. Our intention is to provide dairy farmers with a guaranteed market for their milk, besides further enhancing the quality of our products,” Gethi said.

Dr Juliet Sentumbwe, the director of Animal Resources at the ministry of Agriculture, commended Fresh Dairy’s investment in stringent quality standards along the milk value chain.

She said an aggressive expansion programme undertaken by the processor, together with regular payments for milk delivered, had motivated more farmers to turn to dairy as a key generator of family wealth.

“Once producers are assured of a guaranteed market for their milk, all else falls in place for the sector,” Sentumbwe said.

She asked farmers to respect quarantines declared by the government for the control of livestock diseases such as foot and mouth disease.

“As an intervention for disease control, we are collaborating with security agencies to ensure enforcement of quarantine rules. We are aware some farmers still move animals along the cattle corridor during quarantine, which [worsens the spread of disease] in the area,” she added.

amwesigwa@observer.ug

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