Dealers in raw milk have called off their strike after four days of protesting the government plan to ban the sale of raw milk directly to consumers.
According to the spokesperson of Uganda National Dairy Traders Association (UNDATA), Mr Edward Butera, the decision to call off the strike was reached in a meeting with the industry regulator on Tuesday in Kampala.
“We have called of the strike with immediate effect after the Dairy Development Authority executive director, Ms Jolly Kemirembe Zaribwende, said there is no need to worry about this matter (the planned ban) as the government is looking into our concerns,” Mr Butera said in an interview yon Wednesday.
He continued: “We will also meet Mr Bright Rwamirama, the minister in charge of the sector to discuss this matter further. But in the meantime, we have agreed that we go back to work as engagement with the government continues.”
Although by yesterday (press time) the traders had not met the state minister for Agriculture in charge of Animal Industry, Mr Bright Rwamirama, the ministry’s principal information scientist and public relation officer, Ms Consolata Acayo, said the meeting will be held soon with a view to addressing the traders’ concerns.
Last week, UNDATA’s chairman Justus Kabandize called for the strike on the grounds that his members, who are spread across the country, were unhappy with the government’s plans to ban vending of raw milk directly to consumers.
According to Mr Kabandize, dairy traders are uncomfortable with the government accusation that they are responsible for adulterated milk on the market. Coupled with the fact that the processors do not pay them what they claim is due to their effort, they were left with no choice but call for strike.
“We get peanuts compared to the services we provide. And, it is also wrong to say that our supplies (milk) are adulterated because as an industry we have invested over Shs30 billion over the years so as to conform to the required (industry safety) standards.”
In response, Mr Rwamirama, said the planned ban is informed by the need to protect the population from the dangers of adulterated milk that some traders are vending.
Dealers count losses due to ban on raw milk
Although the strike has been halted, losses were made.
According to Ms Ruth Mwanga, the manager of Katwe Fresh Dairy, who earns about Sh10 million in a good day out of her 10,000 litres stock, all she has been doing in the last four days was waving away potential customers because she has to stand in unison with other dealers across the country in protesting the planned ban.
And Mr Patrick Natukunda, a raw milk vendor in Kibuli, Mutajazi who vends nearly 200 litres daily told the Daily Monitor he had difficulties explaining to his customers, mostly low-income earners who depend on raw milk to feed their family, what had gone amiss. He said: “Most of the customers only consume our raw milk which they can afford.”
Ban: The move to ban the vending of raw milk started in 2007. It was halted, according to the government to allow the vendors develop capacity to process.
Processors: There are less than 50 processors around the country with majority being petty milk vendors (raw milk)
Consumption: The consumption of milk per person in Ugandan is estimated at 60litres per year, much lower consumption compared to 200litres expected/recommended per person by World Health Organisation annually.
Marketable milk: In Uganda, marketable milk is valued at $317million annually and shared amongst estimated 1.7 million households that keep cattle.
Dairy farming: Dairy farming is concentrated in 42 districts found in the cattle corridor that stretches from south-western Uganda through the central region to the north eastern part of the country.