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Why milk prices have gone down

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A man (not in picture) pours milk in a milk-can in Uganda. PHOTO/FILE

Mr Abel Rwentaro, a livestock farmer with 60 dairy cows at Kinuuka Village, Lyantonde District, is struggling to make ends meet.

Despite supplying up to 3,000 litres of milk monthly, Mr Rwentaro’s monthly income has dropped from Shs1.5 million per month to around Shs800,000.

 The unstable milk prices have severely affected his income, a situation faced by many other farmers.

“We can hardly meet our daily needs, we inject in much money to sustain our herds, but the output is low, almost operating at a loss,” he says  

 In neighbouring Lwengo District, Mr Emmanuel Ssekamatte, another livestock farmer with 40 cows, echoes similar concerns.

He says: “We are currently selling a litre of milk at Shs450, which is very low compared to the cost of production.” 

“Middlemen are getting many profits from milk as farmers continue to get peanuts yet the cost of drugs and other farm inputs is high, which has prompted some farmers to resort to other businesses,” he adds.

Mr Robert Kanyete from Rakai District, who owns 30 dairy cows, also feels the impact of fluctuating raw milk prices. “We used to sell a litre of milk at Shs600, but now it’s at Shs500. We are making losses,” he says.

 Mr Hebert Kuteesa, a farmer in Gomba District, says the farm gate price of milk is between Shs350 and Shs400 per litre. Equally farmers in the districts of Kiruhura, and Sembabule, are struggling to cope with the low milk prices.

 “The farm gate price per litre of milk here is trading at between Shs400 and Shs550, depending on the distance and quality of milk. In towns, a litre of unprocessed milk is being sold at either Shs1,000, Shs1,200, or Shs1,500, while a litre of processed milk is going for either Shs2,000, Shs2,500, or Shs3,000, depending on the brand,” Mr Fred Karakure, the chairperson of Lugusulu Sub-County in the Sembabule District, also a livestock farmer, says

 The farmers are appealing to milk processors to increase the farm gate price to at least Shs700 per litre to enable them to support their livelihood.

 “We are spending a lot on feeds, veterinary services, and labour, but the price of milk is not commensurate with what we inject into the business,” Karakure says.

The chairperson of Rubuguri Dairy Cooperative Society in Kisoro District, Mr Wilberforce Mucunguzi, says they used to produce more than 1,000 litres of milk daily, but currently they are producing less than 600 litres.

Mr Mucunguzi attributes the decline in production to the prolonged dry season and poor payment by Virunga Dairy farmer’s factory where they mainly supply their milk. He says some farmers have been demoralised by poor prices and are opting to sell their milk in small quantities to hotel operators in Kisoro Town.

He also highlights other challenges dairy farmers in his area are facing such as expensive drugs, lack of extension services, and a poor road network. The price of milk in Kisoro stands at Shs1,000 per litre on wholesale and Shs1,500 on retail.

The administrator at Kabale Tukore Dairy in Kabale Town, Ms Agatha Tumusiime, says the prices of milk at her facility are determined by customer demand, with prices ranging between Shs1,300 and Shs1,500 per litre. She says during school holidays, when demand is higher, prices increase.

“Since last year to date, the prices of a litre of milk has been ranging between Shs1, 300 and Shs1, 500. We have established that when the number of customers increases, especially during school holidays, there is an increase in the price of milk per litre and when students return to school like now , then the prices reduce due to few customers. Currently, the price of a litre of milk at our facility is at Shs1, 400,” Ms Tumusiime says.

In Kamuli District, just as the rains came back signalling a milk boost early this year , Foot-and-Mouth disease cattle quarantine was declared thus affecting dairy farmers. Mr Samson Musuyi, a dairy farmer in Balawoli Kamuli District, says the price has dropped because people are cautious about consuming milk. 

“We have our Balawoli Dairy Cooperation trying to make yoghurt and help farmers collectively buy the milk, but business is not catching up. People are crying of poverty and loaded obligations,” he explains .

Kamuli District Veterinary Officer James Kunya encourages farmers to use dairy cooperative societies, even though many farmers avoid them due to delayed payments.

“Rain boosts milk production, but the consumption remains constant hence the inevitable price drop. So, since this is the case, farmers should entrust their milk with cooperative societies and wait to get their money later ,” he says.

In Arua City, the price of milk has remained unchanged since last year. For instance, a litre of raw milk costs Shs1,500. 

 Ms Loyce Leni, a resident of Ediofe in Arua City, says: “I am used to buying milk at Shs1,500 and it is still okay. But if you buy directly from livestock farmers, it is Shs500 a cup. So, it is cheap.”

She says the price has remained at Shs1,500 because there are few livestock farmers in West Nile.  

Mr Silvano Candia, a resident of Ovujo in Maracha District, says the price of milk fluctuates between Shs500 to Shs1,000 in the rural areas because of low demand. 

“Here, we do not consume much milk. Most families buy it for children. So, if you overcharge clients, they will not buy it and it will get spoilt,” he says.

Most of the milk in the West Nile Sub-region is supplied from other parts of Uganda, making the price high due to transport costs. The sub-region has few livestock farmers who produce milk for commercial purposes. 

In Kasese, the end user retail price for milk has remained high in the past eight months despite heavy rains which supported good pasture and improved milk production during the same period .

Ms Joyla Kabugho, a shop owner at Mukirania Street, says she has been buying a cup of milk at Shs1,000 for a long time.

Mr Nathan Katabarwa, a milk dealer in Kasese Town, says the consumer price in Kasese remains high because the district has not registered any increase in the production of milk.

“Local milk production is low and we usually get milk from areas like Bushenyi, Sheema,” Ms Katabarwa says

Ms Katabarwa adds that many farmers decry the low milk prices, which they attribute to the devaluation in the Congolese currency.

“Many of us who had been selling our milk to the DRC were forced to reduce the price we pay farmers because the returns from the DRC market were diminishing. A litre which we were previously buying at Shs1, 800, we are now paying Shs1,200,” he adds.

Ms Mary Akatukunda, a dairy farmer in Bushenyi District, says the farm gate price per litre is Shs800, but town prices remain Shs1,500.

“Some of us who rely on milk as a business have been affected by the low prices. Sometimes, we end up giving it to residents for free because milk traders buy it cheaply,” she says.

Ms Dianah Kamatungo, who works with Ishongororo Town Dairy Farmers in Ibanda District, says farmers are selling milk between Shs400 and Shs500 per litre and in towns it costs Shs700 up from Shs1,200 a year ago.

Mr Enock Niwabiine, the chairperson of Bukanga Dairy Cooperative Society, says the farm gate price is currently at Shs600, but is expected to go up in June as dry spells set in .

“We are still selling raw milk because adding value is expensive, maybe if the government assists cooperative societies, we would at least be able to add value to the milk we produce,” he says.

In Soroti City, urban dwellers are currently facing scarcity in milk supply after flash floods from Karamoja rangelands displaced scores of herdsmen from various swamps .

One of the cattle keepers at Apujan na Ogweri grazing swamp in Soroti District says the floods have left thousands of cows unable to graze, and this has affected milk production in the districts of Soroti, Serere and Ngora.

“We are trying to have the cows relocated to other areas of Kapelebyong District, but we are finding resistance from those in the security circles in that district yet this is a disaster,” a farmer, who preferred anonymity, says. Currently, a litre of raw milk in Soroti is Shs2,000 .

Mr Charles Okello, a herder with 50 head of cattle in Apujan na Ogweri in Soroti, says they are planning to relocate to Kapelebyong District, and they will only return when the floods have subsided.

*Compiled by Al Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Philip Wafula, Wilson Kutamba, Abubaker Kirunda, Sam Caleb Opio, Felix Warom Okello, Clement Aluma, Felix Ainebyoona, Julius Byamukama, Jovita Kyarisiima, Coslin Nakayiira, Denis Edema, Hillary Twinamatsiko, Robert Muhereza, Naume Biira, Julius Hafasha, Simon Peter Emwamu & Jerome Kule Bitswande