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New cheese firm opens

A new cheese manufacturing plant has opened in Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb, joining other players in the industry like Pearl dairy, Paramount dairies, and Sameer Uganda.

Holland dairy, the company behind this project, is expected to process 300,000 litres a month, which relates to 10,000 litres a day. The plant will specialise in cheese production, especially Gouda cheese, which has its origin in Netherlands. According to the company directors, cheese production is still a virgin area in Uganda.

“The cheese market is growing tremendously here. Besides, Uganda has a lot of expatriates who demand for the product,” says Salima Karmali, a director.

Cheese is a product made from the curd obtained from whole or skimmed milk. Salima says to reach their potential, their plant will produce one tonne of cheese every day. Holland dairy will price its cheese at about Shs 26,000 a kilogram. The price of locally made cheese goes for about Shs 25,000 to Shs 30,000. Imported cheese goes for about Shs 40,000 in the local supermarkets.

The plant will get its milk supplies from Mbarara, Kayunga, and Sembabule, among other districts. “There are a lot of foundations we have set for the milk farmers.  We hope to get milk from individual farmers [those who have the capacity to transport their milk to the plant] and middlemen at Shs 700 a litre,” says Karmali. Farmers in the villages sell their milk between Shs 300 and Shs 500 a litre.

The product will be sold on the local market and the surplus will be exported to markets in Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan. The plant cost almost $800,000 to set up, according to Karmali. Holland diary will go a long way in exploiting the huge amount of milk in the country, and also offer revenue options to farmers. It is expected that the entry of Holland dairy could create some sort of price war for farmers’ milk, which should boost farmers’ income.

Sameer group, one of the cheese producing companies, processes about 350,000 litres per day as of 2011, according to company figures. Pearl dairy, a sister company of Midland group, entered the sector late last year with a $15m milk processing plant. Figures from the Dairy Development Authority show that Uganda produces 1.5 billion litres of milk every year and the biggest chunk is not marketed. About 20% of this milk is processed.

And despite the presence of Sameer and Pearl dairy, farmers in the villages still pour away litres of milk because they cannot find buyers for it. “There is a lot of milk that is still being poured away and we hope to reduce that,” says Karmali.

As one of the future prospects, the company hopes to extend their range of products into yoghurt production and rice pudding.

Holland dairy has partnered with a Ugandan who was their student in Netherlands to install their machines. Richard Kalyesubula, who first trained as a boiler operator and has now turned into a cheese expert and a welder, received facilitation to Holland to enhance his skills in 2003 courtesy of Gerrit Van der Leeuw and his wife, the Dutch owners of Gouda Gold, one of the first cheese-producing companies in Uganda.

“I am the one who made the steam boiler here and I installed these machines,” he says.

Together with Holland dairy, Kalyesubula has already started on the process of training other Ugandans that have prospects of joining the dairy sector in areas such as milk preservation.

aamwesigwa@gmail.com

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