Every now and then, farmers complain of a lack of market for milk in the country, especially upcountry. Most producers target urban areas to sell their milk. But there is need to look closely at who consumes milk, as there are still unexploited segments of the market that can consume a substantial amount of milk leaving producers and processors smiling all the way to the bank.
One way of doing this is to target schools as a potential market for processed milk but this cannot happen overnight.
Uganda Crane Creameries Cooperative Union (UCCCU) which brings together dairy farmers in Ankole and Kigezi, has initiated a project targetting such consumers of milk. It is supplying milk to schools through purchases from primary cooperative societies and unions, which are in the vicinity of the schools involved in the pilot project.
Clayton Arinanye, UCCCU project manager, says the objective is to link dairy farmers to the new markets, and has the benefit of school children accessing fresh milk, which is good for their health and growth.
It also supports the farmers’ efforts in expanding their market base thus enhancing incomes, and therefore improved livelihoods, through their primary cooperative societies.
The project comes at the time when farmers cooperatives are putting final touches on their own processing plant in south western Uganda, which will guarantee supply of products like pasteurised milk, UHT and yoghurt to schools.
It will also support farmers increase marketing of milk through farmer cooperatives, integrate dairy activities in school programmes, and consumption of milk in milk-deficit areas.
Daphne Ayijuka, the project coordinator, says the school milk activity started in September 2013 at the beginning of third term. There were 25 schools participating with 16 cooperative societies supplying milk.
Now, the numbers of schools and cooperative societies has increased. “Today, we have 20 cooperative societies and 35 schools with the total consumption of milk being 4,135 litres per day, 124,050 litres per month. Total consumption from September 2013 to March 2014 is 325,026 litres”, Ayijuka says. She attributes this increase to benefits that the schools and cooperative societies have got out of the project.
The benefits include price stabilisation, guaranteed market during the flush period (especially during the rainy season), creation of markets and improved milk quality, among others.
During the rainy season, milk supply increases making it cheap, it drops from Shs1,000 to Shs200 a litre at farm gate price. The project buys milk at Shs1,000 irrespective of the season.
The primary cooperative societies are key beneficiaries due to a ready market for the milk supplied to the schools and at the same time creating future customers.
Milk quality has since improved due to sensitisation of farmers. “There has been tremendous improvement of milk quality as farmers who double as parents no longer look at selling milk to strangers but instead it is now consumed within the vicinity of their farms and taken by their children,” Arinanye points out.
Acquisition of milk coolers has also improved the value chain thus making it easy for schools to access milk at any given time of the day. UCCCU has since acquired 100 coolers which have been supplied to cooperative societies in southwestern region.
“The coolers will go a long way to help our farmers improve milk quality when we open our factory which is near completion. They have also created employment for our youths who manage them,” he says
The programme is also geared at improving the consumption of milk in the country since Uganda is lagging behind in this, according to UN standards.
Steven Ayikiriza, regional manager, Dairy Development Authority, says UN recommends that a person should consume 200 litres per year. Uganda stands at 55 litres per annum.
He encouraged students to use debates, poems and stories to promote consumption of milk. Ironically, the region is a leading producer of milk yet its children are malnourished amidst plenty of milk and other foods.
The chairman UCCCU, George Nuwagira, says students should brought on board to embrace farming which in turn will create jobs as they finish school. He wants all forms of punishments related to farming to be discouraged. “Punishing students with work on schools farms negates the students’ attitude leading them to hate agriculture. Yet it plays an important role in the country.”
He encourages students to have a positive attitude towards agriculture because there are very many opportunities and jobs in the sector. He cites value addition as one with huge potentials in job creation especially in the dairy industry.