Wednesday April 9 2014

Government to ban unpacked milk

Shop attendant packing milk for customers from a cooler.

Shop attendant packing milk for customers from a cooler. Measures to ensure proper handling will go a long way in countering unscrupulous traders and concerns over adulteration of milk. BY OTUSHABIRE TIBYANGYE 

By Otushabire Tibyangye

Government is planning to place a ban on the sale of unpacked raw milk from milk coolers in urban centres in the country as a measure to protect the public from consuming adulterated milk.

This was revealed by Dr Jolly Kemirembe Zaribwende, the executive director, Dairy Development Authority (DDA) while addressing dairy farmers from Ankole and Kigezi regions during their annual general meeting.

Address issues
Organised under the Uganda Crane Creameries Cooperative Union (UCCCU), they held the meeting at their factory in Ruti Trading Centre, Mbarara Municipality last week.
At the event, Dr Zaribwende said the decision has already been taken at Cabinet level and was waiting for implementation.

“Whoever wants to trade in raw milk will have to pre-pack it in a container and label it before putting it on the market. This is so as to combat contamination or adulteration by unscrupulous milk vendors,” she said.

There has been a general outcry by urban dwellers about being short-changed and getting less value for their money through buying adulterated milk. So, it is expected that this move will address these complaints and also help raise milk quality.

“DDA is optimistic that this will push the milk vendors in urban places back to the villages where competition will raise the milk quality,” she says. She cited some extreme cases when on several occasions frogs have jumped out of milk tankers and cans as the officials carry out inspection.

The intervention comes at a time where many players in the milk industry have embraced value addition, with the Mbarara region alone boasting of six large- and medium-scale plants both for ultra-heat treatment (UHT) processing of milk and packaging powdered milk.

Farmers have been up in arms with processors accusing them of paying them peanuts for their milk at farm gate yet the processed products are sold at high prices. Raw milk currently ranges from Shs400 to Shs800, depending on the location.

More value
The dairy farmers in the Ankole and Kigezi regions mobilised under their cooperative union, UCCCU, also are putting up a factory, which is near completion, which will have the capacity to handle more than 100,000 litres of milk per day.

It is set to bring a smile on the faces of the farmers who have been at the mercy of private processors, who largely determine the prices they pay them.

To increase what they can garner from the milk value chain, the union recently acquired 100 processing equipment that includes coolers, generators, mini-laboratories, among others.

Asked whether the impending ban will create unemployment as raw milk vendors will be pushed out of business, Zaribwende said on the contrary , they will encourage creativity among the vendors as they strive to remain in business.

“These could be things like better packing methods as they will be held to account once it is discovered that their products are wanting,” she says.

Raising the quality
Many milk vendors in Mbarara Town, especially those with coolers, are optimistic that this will raise the quality of milk and at the same time weed out unnecessary competition that has been artificial.

Peter Twine from Ankole Fresh Milk, says some vendors have been selling adulterated milk edging out those with quality milk.

“Once this decision is implemented, it will help us vendors to make better profits, will raise the milk quality, standard of handling and consumer confidence,” he says.

But, however, Twine is skeptical about the kind of competition that the ban on raw milk will generate. On the other hand, the dairy farmers also faulted DDA for not implementing the ban that was put on use of plastic containers in milk handling.

“We see very many vendors carrying milk in jerrycans, now others have ‘graduated’ from jerrycans to drums and tanks,” Bavis Bitarinsha, a farmer from Ibanda, observed.