Uganda finds new markets for its milk as production surges

by Christopher Kiiza
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After unending trade wars and unpredictable market access for Uganda’s dairy products in the East African regional neighbours, especially Kenya, the country has widened the search for market in the north and west Africa particularly Algeria and Senegal.

In March last year, President Yoweri Museveni visited Algeria and struck a trade deal with the north African country to sell dairy products in Algeria and consolidate ties in other agricultural areas including animal health.

President Museveni’s visit to Algiers came just days after Uganda’s neighbour, Kenya lifted the ban on Uganda’s milk and milk products, which Nairobi had imposed weeks earlier on the pretext of protecting Kenyan farmers.

Kenya imposed the ban despite the availability of the East African Community (EAC) Protocols which refer to goods traded within the EAC as transfers and only describes importation of products as goods being imported from outside of the East African Community.

Before Kenya closed its doors for Uganda’s milk and milk products, it had been the leading buyer of Uganda’s milk, with imports valued at USD138.2 million in 2020.

Last month, the new Ambassador of Algeria to Uganda, Mohamed Khelifi said finalising the Algeria-Uganda milk deal is top on his agenda.

The deal will see Uganda fully export its milk to Algeria.

“We are in the final process of the deal and soon Uganda will start exporting its milk to Algeria because we have tested it and it is of high quality as we also look into what Algeria can export to Uganda,” said Khelifi.

The Minister of State for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (Animal Industry), Bright Rwamirama has revealed that the Uganda – Algeria milk deal is in advanced stages.

“We are now encouraging milk powder processing for long shelf life and distant market access. Our new identified markets of Algeria and Senegal will soon bear fruit,” Rwamirama told reporters at the Uganda Media Center in Kampala. 

The deal is so significant for Uganda given that Uganda’s milk production has increased rapidly with very low domestic consumption.

Uganda’s Milk Production

Uganda’s dairy sector is growing rapidly.

Accordingly, to the Dairy Development Authority annual report 2022/2023, milk production has increased by 37% from 2.81 billion litres in the financial year 2020/21 to 3.85 billion litres in the financial year 2022/23.

The export value of milk and milk products increased from USD102.6 million in 2021/22 to USD 264.5million in 2022/23.

“These are tremendous developments that should be appreciated,” said Rwamirama, adding that for the livestock sector to thrive, farmers need to take on livestock farming as a business and keep high yielding breeds, focus on animal feeding and animal health for increased productivity and high-quality standards for market access.

The Government and sector players have contributed greatly towards increasing production, value addition and quality control for local consumption and export.

Contribution to Uganda’s Economy

The dairy industry is a significant contributor to Uganda’s economy, providing livelihoods for millions of people and contributing to food security and nutrition.

The sector contributes 6.5 percent of the country’s Agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In spite of this, the sector still continues to face a number of challenges and most specifically in the previous year, the intermittent closures and limitation of dairy imports by Kenya which has been Uganda’s biggest export market for liquid dairy products.

This has had a notable impact on the incomes of Ugandan farmers as well as loss of jobs by some processors who lost a large portion of their market.

However, according to Rwamirama, “this has been a lesson to us as a country that produces more milk than we consume and yet are far below the World Health Organization recommended 200 litres of milk per capita. We therefore need as a country to explore ways of increasing domestic consumption especially amongst the school going children as has been practiced in other countries for a long time.”

Meanwhile, the issue of counterfeit drugs and acaricides has also had a big impact on the dairy sector. Dairy farmers have spent a lot of money treating tick-borne diseases with ineffective drugs that have flooded the country.

To solve this challenge, Government, effective October 27, 2022 rolled out anti-tick vaccines developed by National Agricultural Research Organization for the final trial stage. Upon the successful conclusion of the trial, the anti-tick vaccine will be available and ready for scaling up for use by livestock farmers.

Currently, livestock farmers are spraying their animals every week, but with the vaccine, they will apply twice every 6 months.

Rwamirama revealed that the injectable vaccine has given promising results against brown, blue, and red ticks.

The Minister also said that through National Animal Genetic Resources Centre and Data Bank (NAGRC&DB), Government is working towards improving the quality and availability of high-yielding dairy breeds.

This is being piloted through community breeding as well as bringing Artificial Insemination services closer to the farmers.

“For dairy farming to be more profitable, there is need to improve productivity per cow, animal nutrition and health. We are investing more in disease prevention than treatment,” he said.

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