Members of Parliament yesterday questioned the President’s directive for local dairy farmers to surrender milk coolers to Brookside, a Kenyan dairy company.
The MPs were irked by a letter presented by Rujumbura County MP Fred Turyamuhweza, instructing Resident District Commissioners in cattle-keeping districts of Rukungiri, Kanungu, Ntungamo, Kiruhura, Lyantonde, and Isingiro to enforce the directive.
The lawmaker said farmers are living in fear because of the President’s directive.
Mr Turyamuhweza presented a copy of the letter from the Office of the President ordering the dairy cooperative societies in the said districts to release the coolers, which should be taken over by Brookside, a company owned by Kenya’s first family.
“This has created a lot of anxiety, the dairy farmers do not know what is happening, and what alternatives government is providing. They are crying to this House for protection,” Mr Turyamuhweza said.
“The prayer is for this House to halt this exercise of Brookside taking over these coolers until an understanding has been reached,” he added.
Ms Amelia Kyambadde, the Trade minister, declined to explain, saying she would address the matter to Mr Vincent Sempijja, the Minister of Agriculture, who was not in Parliament.
In 2015, Brookside took over the operations of Uganda’s milk giant Sameer Agriculture and Livestock Limited (SALL), which had bought off the state-owned Uganda Dairy Corporation at one dollar during the wave of mass privatisation.
The MPs argued that the sale of SALL to Brookside cannot mean that the entire country’s milk chain was sold to the company.
Mr Felix Okot Ogong (NRM, Dokolo South) said: “They cannot claim the coolers that were installed using taxpayer’s money. I think we need to be serious, we cannot hand over things that were given to our people to a company that only paid one dollar.”
He advised Parliament to stop the move on grounds that it was dangerous to farmers.
The Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, said what was sold was only a factory.
“I think Brookside bought a factory at one dollar, they could not have bought an entire milk chain in the country. This is a serious matter,” she said, adding: “Whatever it is, I think no one has a right to just donate the properties of the farmers of Uganda casually.”
On examining the letter addressed to Resident District Commissioners in the said districts, the Speaker said the matter should not be taken lightly because it touches the plight of the ordinary people.
Protest. Last week, government issued a protest note to Kenya expressing concern over the illegal seizure of Ugandan-made milk products under the Lato brand.
In a January 15 letter addressed to the Kenyan High Commission to Uganda, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the seizures executed on three separate occasions during this month contravene the EAC Customs Union Protocol.