Gov’t imposed animal quarantine on numerous districts to curtail the spread of the Foot and Mouth disease
Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Livestock farmers are calling on the government to privatize the import, purchase and distribution of farm inputs especially vaccines to improve the animal health service delivery.
This comes at a time the country is battling the Foot and Mouth disease outbreak that has seen the government impose quarantine on at least four districts and restricting the movement of livestock and livestock products in some areas.
These measures have resulted in the shortage of milk supply in some parts of the country and a plunge in milk and beef prices in areas under quarantine. Mid last month, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries blocked the movement of milk, beef, hides and skins and other animal products from districts like Sembabule, Kiruhura, Kazo, Gomba and Isingiro.
Mbarara district officials were already implementing a localized quarantine in some areas. The government also said it had procured 2.4 million doses of vaccines at Shs 13 billion to vaccinate animals in the affected areas.
The movement of livestock and livestock products is also being controlled in another 24 districts including Kampala, Wakiso, Masindi, Nakasongola and Mukono, said to be high-risk areas. The others include Kalungu, Kiboga, Kiryandongo, Kyankwanzi, Kyotera, Koboko, Mbarara, Lyantonde, Nakaseke, Rakai and Rubirizi.
At-risk districts are those bordering national parks as well as those along the transit routes used by livestock traders and exporters. The State Minister for Animal Husbandry Bright Rwamirama said while the affected districts are high concentrations of livestock activities, the quarantine was not likely to affect supply and prices.
The country has about 14 million heads of cattle, 15 million goats and 10 million sheep and pigs combined. Rwamirama notes that there are other effects on the economy arising out of the outbreaks such as blocked exports from the affected districts.
Despite his assurances, milk traders are feeling the effect on their businesses because of disrupted supply. For example, most of Kampala and surrounding districts mainly receive milk from the greater Mbarara area most of which is now under quarantine.
They say that now, the milk comes from other areas in central Uganda likegGreater Luweero and Kyankwanzi, but that it is not enough. The traders also say the demand for milk also fell since the lockdown almost a year ago, and they are finding it hard to increase the prices to the level required for good business as before.
Apophia Nayebare, a milk trader in Kampala says if they increase the price of the milk beyond Shs 1,400 per liter, they risk losing their customers yet the margin is very small, less than Shs 100 before deducting other expenses.
She says that she used to sell more than 15 cans of 50 liters daily before the lockdown, but now sales less than half of that.
She however says the situation is not only due to the quarantine but even the dry weather in the cattle corridor has affected milk production.
Joshua Akandwanaho, the Director of Frank Farm Estates Ltd, a livestock farm based in Sembabule says much as quarantines are a necessity when there is an outbreak, the way government does it cannot effectively eradicate diseases.
He says that carrying out vaccinations in a few areas leaves the other areas at risk and the consequences on the farmers in the affected areas take longer. Farmers say they are yet to have the vets in their areas, more than two weeks since the government announced the exercise.
Akandwanaho acknowledges that the drugs are expensive but wonders why the government maintains the monopoly over vaccines, adding that farmers would even be willing to share the cost to enable the government to acquire enough vaccines.
Akandwanaho also proposes that more efforts be put into value addition, saying despite an increase in the number of processors, there is still a lot of surplus milk on the farms, which he says is one of the factors that keep the farmers in poverty. He says even without outbreaks and quarantines, during rainy seasons, a bumper milk production sees prices go down to Shs 300 a liter.
He wants the government to introduce tailor-made financial products for farmers because they have been hit badly though production remains growing. He says the reduced farmer-incomes due to a contraction in markets and fall in prices, they should be helped access low-cost financial products as well as equipment on credit to help them commercialize production.