Fresh Dairy intends to deepen its network of milk supply by training farmers in better ways of handling milk.
The company said it would engage farmers during field days on aspects of animal breeding, feed preparation and conservation as measures to ensure Fresh Dairy meets its milk production targets throughout the year.
John Gethi, the procurement director at Fresh Dairy, said the company has enhanced its daily processing capacity to 600,000 litres as it seeks to satisfy increasing demand for its products both in the domestic and foreign markets.
“We are currently partnering 80 farmer groups by training them on ways of improving production. We are emphasizing animal feed preparation and conservation as a way of increasing milk production,” Gethi told more than 3,000 farmers who attended the company’s field day, which was held in Sembabule district recently.
During the field day, farmers complained about the prevalence of tick-borne diseases in Sembabule and the Greater Masaka, and called on the government to intervene with effective control measures.
The farmers said the effectiveness of the drugs that control ticks was being questioned following a rise in tick-borne diseases in the district.
Farmers said most of their animals have been attacked by ticks which transmit diseases such as East Coast fever and heart water. This, they say, has reduced the amount of milk from their livestock. Gethi said they are working with the ministry of agriculture to come up with a long-lasting solution to the problem.
“We will empower farmers to ensure that there is growth in milk production by smallholder farmers in the country,” Gethi said.
He added that they will continue to engage farmers on clean milk production as a way of maintaining quality along the entire value chain.
“We have provided dairy groups partnering us with milk coolers and power generation sets as a way of enhancing the quality of raw milk by maintaining the cold chain all the way to our processing facilities in Kampala,” he said
The field day was aimed at equipping farmers with knowledge on how to look after their animals in order to improve their household incomes, according to Gethi.
“The field days enable our farmers to interact with service providers and other stakeholders along the dairy value chain on best practices in the dairy enterprise. This is meant to improve the quality and quantity of raw milk sold to us,” said Gethi.
Gethi said Fresh Dairy would continue to guarantee a reliable market for farmers’ milk. The company paid Shs 58 billion to farmers last year, up from Shs 24 billion the previous year.
He said the milk quality initiatives undertaken by the processor had seen the value of exports grow from $13 million in 2015 to $18 million last year.
Theodore Ssekikubo, the member of parliament Lwemiyaga, blamed the resistance of ticks to low-quality drugs supplied to farmers by unscrupulous traders.
He attributed the situation to laxity in monitoring and testing of agro chemicals coming into the country by the National Drug Authority (NDA).
“NDA is in limbo; they are not taking active inspection of the drugs in the market. So, these traders who are highly connected continue to import substandard drugs because there is no one to bring them to order,” the MP claimed.
At the field day, farmers were trained in clean milk production, use of agro chemicals, and technologies used for testing the quality of raw milk. Participants at the show included service providers along the value chain, such as financial institutions and dairy equipment suppliers.
Yosam Lwabyanga, a farmer from Kanyogoga sub-county in Sembabule district, said out of his 50 head of cattle, 20 have been attacked by tick-borne diseases.
“I have been spraying but the chemicals are not working. When I tried using the concentrated ones, the cows lost weight and became sicker. In that state, you cannot even get milk from them,” lamented Lwabyanga.
Emmanuel Kawooya, the district production officer, said Sembabule district alone produces 130,000 litres of milk daily.
According to the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics, Uganda's domestic milk production went up to 1.55 billion litres at the end of 2014 from 1.37 billion in 2010.