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How dry spells have affected milk supply

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A milk dealer attends to a customer at Kabula Farmers’ Cooperative Society centre in Lyantonde District on July 25.

During the rainy season, Mr Asiimwe produces up to 1,120 litres of milk every week, but the prolonged dry spells have affected milk production at his farm and currently produces only 400 litres.

“I am spending a lot of money on looking after these dairy cows, buying both water and pasture and if we fail to get rain in the coming weeks, I will lose some animals,” he predicts.

Some of the farmers in various cattle corridor districts say milk production has drastically gone down in the past months when dry spells set in, which has affected water sources and pasture. The dry spells have led to a spike in milk prices, but farmers say they still make little profits due to high expenses incurred.

Currently, the farm gate price per litre of milk in many districts is trading at between Shs1,000 and Shs2,000 up from Shs600 two months ago. A litre of processed milk is going for either Shs3,800 or Shs4,000, depending on the brand.

According to Mr Robert Kanyete, the chairperson of Rakai District Livestock Farmers Association, their members have lost many animals during the long spells and dealers are buying them cheaply.

“We sell some of the cattle that are starving at a very cheap price as low as Shs100,000,” he says.

Mr Naboth Mabega, a butcher at Kabungo Trading Centre in Ddyango Town Council, Rakai District, reveals that increased cases of starving animals has affected the prices of beef.

“In some villages where starving cattle are dying, a kilo of beef goes for Shs3,000, some animals are slaughtered when they have already died,” he says.

Mr Perezi Karamuzi, a resident of Maddu Sub-county in the Gomba District, says he has since lost 11 dairy cows due to prolonged dry spells, and this recently prompted him to start hiring a water bowser truck at a cost of Shs700,000 to fetch water from River Katonga every week.

“Milk production has drastically reduced to the extent that some farmers no longer sell milk and the little they get is consumed by their families,” he says.

Despite the reduction in milk production and supply, the demand had remained high, according to Mr Fred Kuhabwa of Ever Fresh Dairy /Bwera Farmers’ Cooperative Society, which has since dominated the milk market in Masaka.

 “The farm gate price of a litre of milk was Shs800 in May, but it has increased to Shs1,600. So, considering the high fuel prices and other expenses involved, we have been prompted to sell a litre at Shs2,300 in most of the urban centres around,” Mr Kuhabwa says.

A milk dealer testing the quality of milk at one of  the cooperative  milk centres in Lyantonde District on July 25.

Mr Enock Gumisiriza, the chairperson of Lugusulu Livestock Farmers Association in Sembabule District, says he took a painful decision to relocate his livestock to the neighbouring Lyantonde District where there is still some pasture and water for animals.

 “When we took the decision to relocate [to Lyantonde] in the first week of July, most of our livestock  suffered tick-borne related diseases and some have  since died, we can hardly observe routine spraying to prevent ticks and measures for our livestock,” he says.

A similar measure has been adopted by Mr Tom Superman Opwonya, a livestock farmer in Nambieso Sub-county in Kwania District, who relocated his cattle near the shores of Lake Kwania.

“Here [near Lake Kwania] water is in abundance, but we buy hay for our cattle. We used to get more than 20 litres of milk per day, but currently it has reduced to less than five litres,” he says.

 Mr David Agweno, a cattle keeper at Obalia Village, Ibuje Sub-county in Apac District, says his cattle have started dying due to inadequate water and pasture.

 “I have more than 200 head of cattle in my kraal, but I lost more than 10 calves and I believe it happened due to poor feeding,” he adds.

In Arua City, the prices of milk have gone up from Shs1,000 a cup to Shs1,200.

Ms Salma Abiko, a resident of Nsambya North Cell, Arua Central Division, says: “This is going to affect the breast feeding mothers who need milk supplement because we mainly depend on milk coming from Mbarara.”

  “If children are not fed well on milk, it will cause malnutrition which is bad for their health,” she adds.

 In Moyo District, Mr Adam Mamawi, the secretary for Production at Lefori Town Council, says water sources in the area have all dried up.

 “Our animals are starving, we don’t know what we can do and what kind of help we can get from the government over this matter,” he says.

 The cattle farmers, who are few in the West Nile Sub-region, have for a long time urged the government to construct valley dams in cattle rearing areas. This, the farmers say, would help in storage of water for animals.

 Mr Charles Adrawa Young, the assistant agriculture officer Lefori Sub-county, says animals are now surviving on leaves and others are destroying gardens in order to get food.

 “We advise cattle owners to control their animals from straying in people’s gardens in order to avoid conflicts,” he says.

 Although the dry season has not led to the death of domestic animals in Kigezi, the quantity of milk production has reduced leading to the increase in prices.

The vice chairperson for Kigezi Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society, Mr Francis Kateiguta, says while they used to get about 4,000 litres of milk every day during the rainy season, they currently receive only 2,500 litres.

“The price of a litre of milk has increased from Shs800 to Shs1,400 because of milk scarcity resulting from the dry season as the cows are not getting enough pastures, but we expect the situation to get better now that the rain has started in some areas,” Mr Kateiguta says.

The Uganda National Metrological Authority ( UNMA ) has since indicated that this month is likely to be characterised by enhanced rainfall in most parts of the country.

“The rainfall outlook for August indicates that areas of northern, eastern and parts of mid-western are likely to receive enhanced rainfall while the rest of the country is likely to receive occasional rainfall,” a weather outlook focus released at the weekend reads in part.

Mr Wilberforce Tigawalana, a livestock farmer   in Namasagali Sub-county, Kamuli District, says the milk production on his farm has dropped from three to two jerrycans per day.

“We have to maintain our customers who trust us with pure milk. What we have done is to increase the price per cup from Shs500 to Shs700,” he says.

To avoid more losses in future, Mr Obed Nayijuka, a cattle Keeper in Nyarubanga Ward, Mbarara City North, says they are planning to start planting pasture such as Napier grass (elephant grass), brachiaria mulato (Congo siginal grass or locally known as kifuta)  that can sustain them during dry spells.

“It is increasingly becoming difficult to sustain livestock farming without enough pasture. We have been looking for banana peelings to ensure our cattle survive, but now we are planning to plant our own grass,” he says.

Mr Steven Mugisha, a cattle farmer in Rwebishuri Ward, Mbarara City, says he has been buying water since June to feed his animals and the area only received some rain on August 1.

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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