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Dairy farmers ponder switching to beef as milk prices stay low

FILE PHOTO: A dairy parlour in Western Uganda, milk prices are constantly dropping.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Dairy farmers across the country baffled by the continuing fall of milk prices and are pondering switching to graze for beef.

Milk prices have fallen to the lowest level at the farm, with a litre in Western Uganda costing just about 450 shillings.  farmers say this is not good enough to cover cost of maintaining a cow.

Boaz Kazinduki Barigye, farmer running a 178-acre Kalagala dairy farm in Lyantonde, said, unfortunately, some farmers are losing patience and are pondering dumping dairy to beef.

At the start of the year, milk cost above 700 shillings per litre from the farmer. It started dropping from around May, reaching the lowest level in July at 400 shillings.

While milk prices have fallen, beef prices have remained stable, with a kilogram of meat costing between Shs 10,000 and Shs 12,000. Some farmers say beef cattle could be a better option than milk.

Barigye’s farm has 300 cows and supplies up to 300 litres of milk daily. He said his monthly income from milk has dropped from 5 million shillings per month to around 2 million yet the requirements to maintain the herd are immense, including the requirement for spraying twice a week and feeding the cows on supplements.

Elizabeth Ndyabagye, the Director of Rushaha farm in Ishaka, said she has cut on the milk she gives to bigger processors and now supplies individual milk buyers that make yoghurt. These are offering a slightly higher price compared to the processors.

Ironically, processed milk remains high, with a litre being sold at 2,000 shillings in Kampala.

An official at one of the processors in Mbarara says that they can’t lower price of processed milk because they have to cater for the 18% value-added tax that government charges on every packet sold.

Uganda’s milk production has increased tremendously, with dairy farmers able to produce 1.61bn litres of milk in 2017. This was a slight drop – due to drought – from the 1.63bn litres produced in 2016, according to the 2018 statistical abstract.

With more dairy farmers getting impatient with milk prices, the country might see its milk production drop if prices stay at the current level.

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