Wednesday February 6 2013

Dairy chain project will help farmers overcome challenges in production

Dairy chain project will help farmers overcome challenges in production

With the necessary equipment acquired, smallholder farmers will be able to sell their milk to more consumers and also be able to preserve for longer and thus minimise loss and waste. File Photo. 

By Ismail Musa Ladu

His life is about to be transformed for the better. And if it goes according to the plan, Mr Bernard Mwesigye, a dairy farmer, should be a much productive and richer farmer in about three years, if the project to develop the dairy value chain in south western Uganda is well executed.

Like many dairy farmers in this area, which is the biggest producer, Mr Mwesigye is no immune to the challenges they are grappling with on daily basis.

Bargaining power
It is estimated that about 30 per cent of milk produced in this region wasted—in other words, it neither gets to the market nor is it consumed.

“One of the biggest problems is how to store the milk safely so that it can survive a day or two without going bad,” Mr Clayton Arinanye, General Manager, Uganda Crane Creameries Cooperative Union (UCCCU) said.

This not only compromises the bargaining power of his 30,000-plus members but the entire chain of farmers, whose first priority is milk production.

“We cannot decide our prices because we have no control of storage facilities, which also in a way largely impacts on the quality of our produce,” he added.

The bottlenecks
Other industry experts like Mr Moses Ogwal, a policy analyst, and Mr Steven Aikiriza, the dairy authority’s principal quality control and monitoring officer, argue that issues of low productivity, limited access to the market, sale of raw and unhygienic milk, cattle diseases, limited technical know-how, and access to finance need immediate attention. This is not forgetting the fact that women and youth are increasingly getting alienated from the industry.

These bottlenecks cut across the entire agricultural sector—something that analysts believe will take time, proper planning, funding and execution to solve. But the good news is that there are some players outside government are willing to lessen the “infrastructure” challenges.

One such player is aBi Trust, whose initiative aims to spur agribusiness development. Last week, it announced $6.5m (about Shs17b) contribution from the Denmark and The Netherlands government to support the dairy value chain over the next three years.

The dairy association will cost-share an additional $1.7m with their clients in addition to technical assistance provided.

Direct benefit
In his presentation during the launch of the project, the dairy value chain specialist, Henry Mutabaazi, said: “The intervention will include support for acquisition of equipment; 100 coolers, 100 generators, 100 milk testing kits and 1,000 metallic milk cans, and handling equipment, insulated bulk tankers for milk transportation (10 units) and refrigerated trucks for milk and other dairy products delivery (4 units) among others.”

In the end, it is expected at least 18,000 households would have benefited directly and at least 72 million litres of milk would have been marketed through collection centres annually bringing in about Shs50 billion per year. The establishment of one processing plant is another benefit.

And for that, Mwesigye and Arinanye, are optimistic that the development will make them competitive, given that they will now own the equipment replacing the old one that has been around since 1960s.