Cattle farmers cry foul as milk prices shoot up

A farmer milks a cow in Mbarara District on Saturday. Cattle farmers say they continue to sell milk to dealers at giveaway prices despite production challenges. PHOTO/ Coslin Nakayiira 

What you need to know:

The farmers accuse milk dealers of exploitation and are now appealing to the government to intervene.

In recent months, consumers have been digging deeper into their pockets to buy milk following a rise in prices.

A litre of milk is now sold at between Shs2,200 and Shs2,500 at most retail shops.

The rise has been attributed to a prolonged dry spell, especially in Ankole Sub-region, that is predominantly cattle keeping.

But this is not the case for cattle farmers, who say they continue to sell milk to dealers at giveaway prices.

A mini-survey carried out by the Daily Monitor in Ankole Sub-region indicates that the farm gate price for a litre of milk is Shs1,000.

The farmers accuse milk dealers of exploitation and are now appealing to the government to intervene.

In Ntungamo District, for instance, the farm gate price for a litre of milk goes for Shs1,000 yet retailers sell it to final consumers at Shs2,200.

“We were buying a litre at Shs700 from April to June, which increased to Shs800 and then from July, the price increased to Shs1,000,” Mr Joram Bashaija, the chairperson of Ntungamo Dairy Farmers Cooperative Union (NDAFCU), said last week.

He cited monopoly as one of the major challenges since Brookside created competition in the market.

“In a season like this, the price would be between Shs1,200 and Shs1,400 but as a result of monopoly and due to pulling out of Brookside Diaries which was a serious competitor, farmers are being exploited,” he added.

Mr Charles Rwamasibuza, a dairy farmer, notes that low milk prices are costing farmers a fortune since they incur extra costs in production.

“During the dry spell, people invest a lot of money to have the cows milked. If the prices remain low, we make losses,” he said.

Ms Immaculate Ampirwe, a retailer in Rutooma, Mbarara District, said they buy a litre of milk at Shs1,000 from the farm and sell it at Shs2,200.

She said they expect prices to drop in October when the rain has increased.

Mr Asaph Benywanira, a farmer in Rushere Town Council, Kiruhura District, said milk prices have never been stable.

“A farmer is always exploited and can never develop because he incurs a lot of costs treating diseases, looking for water and pasture,” he said.

“As farmers, we have never been comfortable with milk prices, in the last months, a litre of milk was going for Shs2,000 because of scarcity but this wasn’t good news to a farmer because in the coming two months, it will be Shs500,”he added.

Mr Patrick Musinguzi, the deputy commercial officer for Isingiro District, said there are five cooperatives in the area, which buy milk from farmers but they were challenged by the dry spell.

“In our district, a litre of milk is now at Shs2,500 and the farm gate price at Shs1,200.The prices of milk increased because of the dry spell, but people should be hopeful that prices will stabilise as rains begin,” he said.

Mr Enock Niwabiine, the chairperson of Bukanga Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society, said farmers have not benefited from increasing milk prices because of low volumes from the farmers.

“Usually milk prices are determined by processors only to exploit us,” he said.

According to information from Dairy Development Authority (DDA) website, western region has a total population of 3.35 million heads of cattle.

The region produces about 1.17 billion litres of milk, with 2.868 million litres per day during wet season and 1.447 million litres during the dry season.

There are seven large scale milk processing plants with a total processing capacity of 1.854 million litres per day and about 64 small scale dairy cottages producing mostly yoghurt, ice cream, ghee and cheese.

According to DDA, in the month of July, the farm gate price for milk in the south-western region was Shs918 and retail at Shs1,542. In central region, the farm gate price was Shs900 and retail at Shs1,800. In eastern region, the farm gate price was at Shs1,318 and Shs1,800 for retail, while for northern, it was at Shs1,200 and Shs2,000 retail.

Compiled by Perez Rumanzi, Rajab Mukombozi, Jovita Ninsiima, Coslin Nakayiira, Milton Bandiho & Julius Byamukama