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Dairy farmers struggle to find market for their milk

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Preservation. Workers offload milk for chilling at a cooler owned by Nyamitsindo Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd in Mbarara District in February last year. PHOTO BY ALFRED TUMUSHABE 

Majority of the cattle keepers in Ankole and some parts of central Uganda have over the last three decades been investing heavily in dairy farming.
This involves clearing land of thicket and removing plant species that cows do not feed on in order to allow the right pastures flourish.
The farmers in this endeavour have to dig valley dams to ensure cows drink adequately. Farmers also have to acquire, breed and nurture cows of high milk yield. The cows have to be sprayed against ticks and other external parasites at least once a week to guard against diseases such as east coast fever and babesiosis.
They have to be dewormed and injected at least every three months to check internal parasites and diseases. These are basic practices that farmers producing high quality and large volumes of milk have to do.
The revolution in dairy farming has resulted in high production of milk against the low domestic and fragile foreign markets.
Mr Ephraim Rwehooda, a farmer in Sanga Town Council, Kiruhura District, is one of the cattle keepers that abandoned traditional long horned cattle for exotic breeds. He milks 300 litres for sale every day.
“I cannot keep on my farm a cow that produces less than 10 litres,” says Mr Rwehooda.
Kiruhura alone produces 1.2 million litres of milk every day, which is about 60 per cent of milk produced in the entire country, according to the LC5 chairperson and farmer, Rev Samuel Mugisha Katungunda.
During peak production (normally the wet season), the price of a litre of milk at the farm goes down to Shs300. Mr Katugunda says the cost of producing a litre of milk is about Shs600. “Shs300 a litre is nothing to a farmer. The minimum price should be Shs1,000; we are putting in quite a lot, about Shs600 is invested in producing one litre. Farmers are frustrated, some have started rearing cows for beef,” says Mr Katugunda.
The Kiruhura Farmers Sustainable Development Union chairperson, Mr Emmanuel Kyeishe Mwesiga, says milk from Kiruhura accounts for 45 per cent of Uganda’s milk exports but the farmer are not happy with the pay. He says the cost of producing a litre of milk is at least Shs500 and argues that it does not make economic sense when the price is below this amount. Farmers sell milk through their primary cooperative societies, some sell through middlemen, who sometimes collect milk from the farm and a few others sell directly to the processors.

Business dynamics
Ultimately, all the milk ends up in the hands of processors. The processors buying in Kiruhura, Mbarara and Isingiro are from Brookside Dairy Ltd, Pearl Dairy Farms Ltd, Jesa Farm Dairy Ltd, Amos Dairies Uganda Ltd, GBK Dairy Products Ltd, and Lakeside Dairies Ltd.
They make UHT milk, yoghurt, Casein, ghee and Lato Milk, among other products, which they sell in the local and international markets.
“Farmers are not involved in determining price, it is the processors that decide; we think they set the price jointly, we (farmers) take what they determine for us. We have decided to form this union to bring together farmers and be able to address the issue of price and market,” says Mr Kyeishe.
The manager of milk procurement at Lakeside Dairies Ltd in Ruti Mbarara, Dr Ronald Bamundaga, says all the processors in the area are buying a litre at Shs600 at the plant. He says a farmer is given less than Shs600 (currently Shs300) because middle men and other players incur costs of chilling the milk and transport before it reaches the processor.
“There is a boda boda man who picks milk from the farm to the collection centre, that one will deduct something, there is truck that will transport milk from the collection centre and take it to a cooler, that will also deduct something. A lot of money is lost along the chain,” says Dr Bamundaga.
He says currently Lakeside, which has intake capacity is 150,000 litres every day, is operating at 30-40 percent (45,000 to 60,000 litres) because Kenya, which has been their major export market, banned milk imports from Uganda.
Amos Dairies Uganda Ltd in Kiruhura, reportedly did not receive milk on Wednesday because of breakdown of the factory machines.

Ban on exportation
Kenya government banned milk products from Uganda (by Pearl Dairy Farms Ltd and Lakeside Dairies Limited) in December last year claiming they are sold cheaply and have flooded their market.
“As we talk now, all processors including us (Lakeside) are not operating fully or have shutdown operations because of closure of lack of market. Over 70 per cent of what we process is exported; we sell to South Sudan as well but the market is very small,” says Dr Bamundaga.
He says the tax in Tanzania, at TZS2,000 per litre, is very prohibitive and that Rwanda is already producing and processing enough much milk. He says they are exploring DR Congo market.
“The local market is very poor, consumption of milk is very low, domestic market takes only 12 per cent of what we collect, here (in Uganda) there is no culture of consuming milk,” says Dr Bamundaga.
Mr Frank Twine, a middleman in Kiruhura Town Council, on Wednesday said they were stuck with milk. “All coolers around are full, those transporting to factories have not come for two days now, we have stopped collecting milk from farmers,” Mr Twine said.
Efforts to get comment from Pearl Dairy Farms Ltd were futile. The company general manager, Mr Bijoy Varghese, did not answer our calls or reply our text message. However, no serious activity was taking place at the company.
Mr Eric Rutahigwa, a farmer in Mbarara producing about 1,600 litres a day, has called on government to intervene. “The government should come in and ensure farmers get a fair price for milk,” says Mr Rutahigwa.
Speaking at Nshwere Church of Uganda in Nyabushozi Kiruhura district on Christmas last year, President Museveni said low price of milk had been brought down by surplus production. He said Kenya which had been market for Uganda’s milk is equally producing a lot of milk because they received a lot of rain though it (Kenya) had always been a dry area.
Mr Museveni, however, advised farmers to remain optimistic saying the prices will become normal.

Remedy
During the NRM/NRA 34th victory celebrations in Ibanda Municipality on January 26, Mr Museveni said three approaches of; market integration in Africa, promoting internal consumption and ensuring production of quality products, would be used to address the issue of lack of market for milk, maize, sugar, and cement.

Source: Daily Monitor

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Falling coffee prices, reduced output forecasts rattle Uganda farmers

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There has been a slump in international coffee prices and shipping costs in the last quarter of 2022

Uganda’s coffee industry is walking into a challenging 2023 defined by falling prices and diminished output forecasts following the recent dry spell that hit major growing areas.

While the sector enjoyed a boom between 2020 and 2022 – with surging coffee prices, rising export volumes and considerable incomes for farmers – decline in international shipping costs and improved production forecasts in Brazil triggered a slump in coffee prices in the last quarter of 2022, according to industry players.

International shipping costs dropped from record highs of $10,000 per container charged on certain sea routes in January 2022 to less than $2,000. Shipping fees charged per 20-foot container ferried from Indonesia to North America, for example, are estimated at $800-$1,000 currently.

Consequently, local and international coffee prices have dropped since October 2022.

International robusta coffee prices fell from an average price of $2,400 per tonne to $1,856 per tonne towards the end of last year, according to industry data. Local robusta coffee prices declined from Ush7,200 ($1.9) per kilogramme to Ush5,800 ($1.6) per kilogramme during the second half of 2022 while Arabica coffee prices fell from Ush11,000 ($2.9) per kilogramme to Ush8,000 ($2) per kilogramme in the period.

In 2021, average coffee prices stood at more than Ush15,000 ($4) per kilogramme.

Dry spell

Robusta coffee production accounts for more than 60 percent of Uganda’s overall coffee output.

Besides gloomy coffee price forecasts for 2023, a severe dry spell in the past six months could pose a huge threat to coffee production levels. The weather affected major coffee-growing areas like the Central region and risks cutting this year’s output to around 5.5 million bags, industry players forecast.

“Brazil and Vietnam are headed for a bumper coffee harvest this year while India and Indonesia have discounted their local coffee prices in a way that has undercut Uganda’s growth momentum on the international market,” said Robert Byaruhanga, chief executive of local exporter Funzo Coffee Ltd.

Post-Covid shift

Asian and Latin American coffee exporters are regaining dominance in European and North American markets after the lockdown period because of the lower coffee prices, reduced freight charges, shorter port clearance turnaround times and reasonable coffee quality grades, Byaruhanga explained.

Ugandan farmers are now holding onto their coffee produce in anticipation of better prices.

Overall coffee exports stood at 6.26 million bags valued at $862.28 million in 2021/22 compared to 6.08 million bags worth $559.16 million registered in 2020/21, data from the Uganda Coffee Development Authority shows.

An estimated 447,162. 60 kilogramme bags of coffee valued at $64.1 million were exported in November 2022 at an average price of $2.39 per kilogramme — 6 US cents lower than the average price of $2.45 per kilogramme posted in October 2022.

Original Source: Daily Monitor

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Over 40 goats die of PPR disease in Madi-Okollo

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At least 43 goats have died of Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) disease, also known as ‘goat plague’ and several others are undergoing treatment in Madi-Okollo district.

Madi-Okollo district veterinary officer, Dr Charles Onzima, says the viral disease, which is related to rinderpest in sheep as well as goats, has claimed the lives of goats in Olali parish in Ogoko sub-county.

He adds that PPR disease was confirmed in the district after 500 local and 94 Boer goats were supplied to families in Olali parish under a poverty eradication programme that he suspects infected the local goats.

43 of the boar goats died while 10 of the local goats of the communities also died of PPR disease.

Onzima says immediately after receiving information about the disease, the veterinary officers got the goats manifesting the signs of PPR that include sudden onset of depression, fever, discharge from the eyes and nose, sores in the mouth, breathing difficulty and death among others.

He says that they have already had three rounds of vaccination for the available goats in the affected area.

Original Source: New Vision Via harvestmoney.co.ug

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Artisanal gold miners defy government on mercury use

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In October, President Museveni signed into the law the Mining and Minerals Act 2022. One of the key provisions in the law is the banning of mercury use in mining activities.

Artisanal and small scale gold miners in Uganda use mercury to separate gold from the ores, a method they say is cost effective, fast and easy to use. During this process, mercury is mixed with gold containing materials to form a mercury gold amalgam which is then heated to obtain the gold from the sediments.

The miners do the processing without wearing any personal protective gear. However, different Non- Government and Civil Society Organizations have over the years warned these miners against using mercury as it poses serious health threats to human life and dangerous to the environment.

But even with the government banning the use of mercury and several warning about the dangers it imposes, gold miners are not yet ready to stop using the substance especially since the government is not providing any viable alternative method they can use.

In Tiira mining site, Tiira town council, Busia district, gold miners expressed their concerns on this ban. Stephen Engidhoh, the Eastern Uganda chairman of Uganda Association of Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (UGAASM) said that mining has created jobs for over 30,000 people in Busia alone and with the government ban on use of mercury, many of them are likely to remain jobless.

He noted that in every sub county in Busia district, there are people during the exploration of minerals but the large gold discoveries here should not be an excuse to eliminate the small-scale miners from the mining sector because these minerals belong to all of them and it where they make a living from.

He added that if government wants this directive to be implemented, it should enforce it gradually and after finding an alternative method the miners can use.

“Government should first sensitize the miners about the dangers of using mercury before eliminating it. By government coming to abruptly ban the use of mercury, it is already creating indirect employment for smugglers to smuggle it into the country than they think they are eliminating,” Engidoh said.

Paul Angesu, the chairman on Tiira Landlords and Artisanal Miners Association said that even though they have been told that mercury is dangerous, for all the years they have used, they have never seen anyone experiencing the danger they say it causes.

“The government still needs to carry out thorough investigations on the possible dangers of using mercury so that it presents to the local miners with practical evidence that indeed mercury is dangerous and this will make us to easily stop using it,” Angesu said.

He added that sometime back, the Uganda National Association of Community and Occupational Health (UNACOH) came and took samples of mercury from the miners but they were not able to submit in the feedback for them to know if indeed they are indeed being affected by mercury.

An alternative gold extraction method which has been suggested to the artisanal gold miners is the use of borax method’ a technique of artisanal gold mining which use borax (a chemical compound) as a flux to purify gold. However, the miners say the government has not taken the initiative of introducing this method to them and training them on how to use it.

“They want us to use borax as an alternative to mercury but most of us don’t even know how borax looks like or even how it works. How do they expect us to start using something they have never taken the initiative to introduce to us?” Angesu asked.

Ramadhan Birenge, a gold miner in Namayingo district has tried using borax before after an NGO brought a sample of it to them. He however said that there is no any another way a miner can use to get gold clearly and quickly other than using mercury.

“The borax they are telling us to use is very expensive and not easily accessible to us, we don’t even know where it is sold and to get gold through using borax is a very long process yet mercury is a very easy, shorter process and relatively cheap.”

John Bosco Bukya, the chairman of Uganda Artisanal Miners Association told The Observer that they are law abiding citizens and since they have tested the consequences of operating in irregularities, they have no big problem with banning of mercury use in mining areas.

But however, before government bans it, it should provide the miners with an alternative processing reagent. He noted that government may not succeed with the ban and not because the miners don’t want to stop using mercury, but because the available alternatives must be effective, efficient and affordable.

“We don’t know anything about the borax method which they say can be an alternative. We don’t know where it is manufactured from, neither its cost or effectiveness. Government should first train the miners of an alternative method, test its effectiveness and efficiency before banning the method currently being used. If it is more efficient, definitely miners will stop using mercury,” Bukya said.

He also advised government to first sensitize these miners about the dangers of mercury before enforcing it and then phase it out gradually and not immediately because it is going to affect the livelihoods of Ugandans who are in this sector and yet it is the responsibility of government to make sure that all Ugandans thrive in their businesses.

Mercury is smuggled into Uganda through the porous borders with Kenya by cartels which makes its trade illegal. It is then discreetly sold to artisanal miners in Busia with a Kg costing between Shs 600,000 to Shs 1 million.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), exposure to mercury, even small amounts may have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes as well as pose a threat to the development of the child in the womb for pregnant women.

Most of these ailments manifest over time. People who burn the gold usually take in large doses of mercury because they directly inhale the metals but those who may get it after eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with mercury take it in slowly and it accumulates over time.

Mercury also contaminates the soil making it infertile and unable to support agriculture, water and air. Mercury emitted to the air can also circulate around and contaminate water, fish and wildlife far from the mine from which it was released which affects the biodiversity.

Original Source: The Observer

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