Milk has potential to become Uganda's largest revenue earner, says Lato

Uganda, according to DDA, has more than two billion litres of milk available for export. Photo / File 

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Lato says there is a lost opportunity in the dairy sector due to low production and consumption of milk in Uganda

Pearl Dairy Farm, the manufacturer of Lato Milk has said stakeholders in the milk value chain must invest rightly to realise the capacity of the diary sector, which has the potential to become Uganda’s number one value added revenue earner. 

Speaking during the launch of Project Prosperity, which seeks to triple both production and income in Mbarara City, Mr Amit Sagar, the Pearl Dairy chief executive officer, said the lost opportunity in Uganda’s dairy sector was concerning given that small scale dairy farmers lose up to Shs15,000 per cow, per day due to low milk production.

This, he said, hinders the country’s capacity to exploit export markets, many of which lack a suitable environment to produce natural and organic milk.   

Therefore, Mr Sagar said, to exploit the country’s potential, there is need to invest in prospects that will guarantee production quality, quantity and supply of milk throughout the year. 

This, he said, will involve providing inputs, which among others, include a variety specie, cow feeds and putting in place feeding infrastructure for cattle at both large and small holder scale. 

The average milk production of a cow in Uganda stands at five litres per day, which is much lower compared to countries such as Netherlands and New Zealand, where a cow produces up to 20 litres or more per day.  The low production, experts say, mainly results from poor feeding and low knowledge.  

As of December 2021, according to Ministry of Agriculture, Uganda produced 2.81 billion liters of milk, of which, only 800 million liters were consumed within the country.

Dairy Development Authority (DDA) indicates that per capita milk consumption in Uganda stands at only 62 litres, which is far below the 200 litres recommended by World Food Programme.  

The above data means that Uganda, even when internal consumption is improved, has more than two billion liters of milk available for export annually. Mr Sagar said whereas Uganda is one of the largest exporters of milk in Africa, it has the potential to earn a billion dollars in the next decade.  

Dairy exports fetched more than Shs382b in foreign exchange earnings in 2021, according to DDA.  

“The dairy sector in Uganda is extremely unique. What stakeholders have to do is to work with farmers to reduce the cost of production,” Mr Sagar said, noting that it was not sustainable and competitive any more to keep increasing the price of milk, thus requiring ways to stabilise farm gate prices to a rate that is fair to the farmer and the processor.  

Mr Akash Kumar, the Pearl Dairy Farm co-founder, said stakeholders in the milk value chain have previously not done enough to support small scale dairy farmer, many of whom require technical support to achieve better yields. 

Therefore, he said, the Project Prosperity will conduct an analysis to understand which support a particular famer needs and how well they can be helped to improve production. 

“We have already done a survey of about 2,000 farms, which are the low hanging fruit. We shall know where we invest to maximize. We want to know, which is the first revenue generating investment, probably that is one gap we want to address,” he said.