Butcher owners in Namutumba District are struggling to keep their business afloat due to the scarcity of animals in the area, a trend they attribute to the large number of animals that were slaughtered during the Christmas season.
A mini-survey on Monday carried out across some of the butchers in the district discovered that since the year begun, prices of meat have increased to Shs12,000 up from Shs10,000 per kilogramme.
As a result, most butchers have been forced to close, Mr Godfrey Mwembe, the chairperson of Namutumba Town Council, said on Tuesday.
“Every week, we used to collect Shs200,000 from slaughtering licenses, but the story has changed. We only collected Shs60,000,” he said.
According to Mr Mwembe, several butchers have closed because few people can afford to purchase animals from Adipala in Katakwi District.
Mr John Musobya, the chairperson of butcher operators in Namutumba, said prices of meat have been increasing since 2017 from Shs6,000 to Shs8,000 per kilogramme, while by August 2018, a kilogramme was Shs10,000.
This was after the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries imposed a quarantine in Namutumba District following an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
The move also prompted cattle dealers to resort to importing animals from Teso Sub-region, notably Adipala area. “Truck owners are charging us a lot of money for transport which keeps on varying every day,” Mr Musobya said.
“And as if that is not enough, town council authorities increased slaughtering licenses from Shs7,500 to Shs15,000 without involving us,” he added.
Mr Moses Kayale, a butcher operator on Bulange Road in Namutumba Town Council, said this is the first time meat prices have soared after the Christmas season.
“For the past years, the price of meat used to reduce after Christmas, but this time, the prices have increased and it is likely to double because in Adipala, bulls are being bought every single day,” he said.
Mr Ronald Mukuba, another butcher operator, said people have resorted to buy mutton.
“Our customers have been used to buying beef at Shs10,000. They are currently not buying because of the high prices,” he said.
The district chairperson, Mr Saleh Kumbuga, said the decrease in the number of animals being slaughtered has affected local revenue collection.
“Animal slaughtering is one of the sources of local revenue besides other sources, and if this persists, we are likely to get a budget cut which will affect service delivery,” he said.
Some locals, however, blamed the rise in prices of meat on the decision by district authorities to double the license for slaughtering animals.
Mr Robert Mukama, a resident of Matyama Village in Namutumba Town Council, said: “What prompted butcher owners to increase the prices of meat was the decision taken by [district] authorities to double the license for slaughtering animals without involving them.”
“We urge authorities to reduce on the license fee so that butcher owners can in turn reduce on the prices of beef,” he said.
In March last year, Namutumba Town Council leaders opted for negotiations as implementation of the bylaw passed 10 years ago on transportation of beef to butchers failed.
The council health inspector, Mr Juma Mugoya, said since then, butcheries owners continue ferrying beef on shoulders, a trend he says is against the by-law and has warned that no butcher will operate without meeting the minimum transportation standards.