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New handling system designed to abolish milk adulteration

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The government has designed a new system of ensuring improved standards of milk, especially for raw or unprocessed milk on the market.

This will replace the open system currently where the milk is vended from jerry-cans or aluminium cans, which increases the vulnerability of the product to adulteration with either water or unapproved preservatives.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries has been fighting against the use of plastic jerry-cans by milk vendors and transporters, milk boiling by vendors, as well as adding water to increase the volume.

All these, according to the ministry, lead to the deterioration of the quality of milk.

The State Minister for Animal Industry, Dr Bright Rwamirama says that new penalties for low standards will be enforced, including fines, imprisonment and delicensing. He says the new system will enable the milk container to be sealed and on opening it, the container will not be reusable and therefore there will be no chance of adding water.

He says that this will also be an alternative to the currently expensive factory-processed milk which most consumers find unaffordable.

The motorized equipment was acquired with funding from Heifer International, to enable the livestock farmers to process feed like chipping grass, grinding grain among others.

The machinery also helps to maneuver the dry season by processing dry grass or hey, into a consumable state by the animals. Each of the 25 units cost 11 million shillings and heifer paid 75 percent of the cost, while the rest is met by the beneficiary, who are mainly farmer groups.

They were supplied under the “Accelerate Dairy Production and Productivity (ADAP) Project, a partnership between the Dairy Development Authority, Heifer International, ABI Development and Jesa Farm Dairy.

It is aimed at improving the productivity of Uganda’s livestock. Climate change effects, especially drought has recently affected the expected growth of dairy production, though there has been a steady increase to 2.8 billion litres last financial year. Dairy exports grew to 355 billion shillings.

Rwamirama says mechanization is vital if the industry is to overcome the effects of adverse weather conditions.

Dr Joshua Zimbe, the Project Manager of ADAP, says the three-year project aims to improve the income and sustainability of 3,500 dairy farmers and processors through increased dairy production and quality of milk in 7 districts of the central milk shed (Wakiso, Mityana, Kiboga, Kyankwanzi, Nakaseke, Nakasongolaa and Kayunga).

He says the average productivity per cow per day is rising, with an increase in milk aggregated at the 18 milk bulking cooperatives from 23,671,138 litres in 2020 to 27,967,904 litres in 2021.

The farmers supply their milk to Jesa Farm Dairy at 1,196 shillings per litre, up from 790 shillings per litre in 2020. Representatives of the farmer groups appealed to the government and its partners to find ways of increasing availability of water throughout the year, saying that currently, the livestock corridor is suffering extensive drought.

The Country Director of Heifer International Uganda, William Matovu says mechanization is slow at taking off in Uganda because Ugandan farmers like operating in isolation.  He says they encourage working in groups because this enables them to benefit from the economies of scale, which can then make them afford modern farming methods, especially mechanization.

The government has been cracking down against the transportation and vending of milk in plastic jerry cans, saying it compromises the quality of the milk.

However, the farmers say the metallic cans a quite expensive and find the jerry can convenient.

Matovu says that they have designed a revolving scheme that will help farmers acquire the cans because they cannot afford them on the open market. The scheme which is to be launched next month in the seven districts will be rolled out later to other places, according to him.

Geoffrey Mulwana, the Executive Director of Jesa Farm Dairy says the aspirations of dairy farmers in Uganda, that is improved earnings from their sweat, is instead being affected by the low quality of their products.

He is however hopeful that these interventions will address these challenges, especially the adulteration of milk with water, so that the milk at the farm attracts the market and the desired price.

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