KABAROLE – In a bid to boost the production and marketing of milk in the country, the National Agricultural Advisory Services [NAADS] has been distributing milk cooling as well as milk handling equipment to deserving dairy farmer groups/cooperatives along the dairy value chain.
Kabarole and Ntoroko districts are some of the districts where cooperatives received the milk cooling facilities but to date, no big benefits have been recouped by the farmers or the cooperatives, as the coolers lie idle without enough milk for sale.
NAADS donated a milk cooler to Kabarole district in 2016 to enable farmers there to minimise losses resulting from poor milk handling. Tooro Dairy Cooperative Society was tasked to operate the cooler, filling it with the milk from the farmers.
However as time went by, the milk cooler with a capacity to hold 2,000 litres, could hardly get 30 litres a day, which rendered it redundant as some farmers kept away.
Julius Kasoro, a farmer from Rwengaju told this reporter the milk cooler is located in a distant place, which discourages farmers from delivering the milk.
Kasoro added that farmers were also discouraged by the irregular pay amidst the long distance.
“Farmers got demoralised when they supplied their milk to Tooro Dairy Cooperative Society but were not paid. As a result, they stopped supplying the cooler with milk,” he said.
Individual farmers have taken advantage of the disorganisation within the cooperative to personally sell the milk to the buyers, even though the farmers do so at a lower price.
“For instance, some farmers are selling their milk individually at Shs 1000 a litre, yet Tooro Dairy Cooperative Society had agreed to buy at Shs 1200. In Fort Portal City, a litre goes for between Shs 1,500 to Shs 2, 200,” Kasoro said.
Silver Tulinawe, the accountant at Tooro Dairy Cooperative Society, said they were incurring high costs of running the milk cooler, which included fueling the vehicles that collected the milk from the distant farmers.
He said the cooperative was getting less milk from farmers and therefore making losses.
“We signed a memorandum of understanding with the farmers and agreed that at least each day they would produce 250 litres of milk, however, this was not achieved,” he said.
The Kabarole district Chairperson, Richard Rwabuhinga when contacted to comment on the matter, said that farmers withdrew from supplying the milk due to the irregular pay by the cooperative.
Rwabuhinga however said the cooler has been handed over to Rwengaju Farmers Cooperative Society and was optimistic that eventually, it will be operational and benefit farmers of the new cooperative.
“I am very optimistic that the new Rwengaju Farmers’ Cooperative Society will successfully run the milk cooler since the farmers will be supervising the project themselves,” he said.
Eng. David Mwesige Baguma, the Chairperson of the new cooperative said they were in serious negotiations with the farmers to supply milk to the facility located in Kidubuli Rwengaju Subcounty in Kabarole district.
The milk cooler in Ntoroko also lies idle
In 2016, a milk cooler with the capacity to keep capacity 10, 000 litres of milk was donated to Ntoroko district by NAADS after farmers requested for it, saying it would help them to store milk for sale but also save them the losses that come with poor milk handling.
However, for six years now, the cooler has been lying idle without milk, despite Ntoroko district having dairy farmers.
However, some farmers and leaders argued that the effects of drought have made it hard to sustain milk production in the district.
Aaron Musiimenta, a cattle keeper in Rwebisengo Subcounty, said it was hard for the local breeds to produce milk throughout the year due to climate change.
He said the long dry spell left the district with a shortage of both pasture and water for animals, leading to low milk production.
Ntoroko district LCV Chairperson, William Kasoro said the machine has not benefited the people of Ntoroko as anticipated due to low milk production.
Kasoro requested the government to provide more funds to the office of the production officer to sensitise pastoralists about the importance of crossbreeding for purposes of increasing milk production.
The Ntoroko district production officer, Dr.Patrick Businge said cattle keepers were yet to embrace the new methods of farming such as local breeds with exotic ones to increase milk production in the years ahead.
Dairy farming is one of the twelve priority commodities being promoted by the government of Uganda. The dairy sub-sector contributes 9 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product [GDP].
Officials say the dairy industry has the potential to contribute significantly to the national economic growth and development if the government in partnership with the private sector can invest more in it.
NAADS donated a milk cooler to Kabarole district in 2016 to enable farmers there to minimise losses resulting from poor milk handling.
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