By Markson Omagor
Mr. President, in your well-rehearsed address to NRM NEC Members at State House, NRM Delegates Conference at Namboole and the gathering that attended the NRA Liberation Day on 26th January, 2020 you stated among other things that Uganda now produces milk surplus and is having difficulty with its market.
Consequently, the farm gate market price for milk especially in Western Uganda has dropped to as low as Shs400. Moreover the external market is facing challenges especially in Kenya where Lato Milk has been banned for unclear reasons.
In the same speech, President Museveni seemingly disagreed with the notion that Uganda’s milk is in excess even for the domestic market. This is where I concur with him.
Quoting World Health Organisation statistics, the President said on average every person should consume 90 liters of milk per annum translating into 0.2 liters a day (almost a quarter a litre) yet an average Ugandan today consumes 62 litres in a year. This means that on average a Ugandan consumes as low as 0.17 litres per day.
If the 43 million Ugandans consumed as per WHO guidelines then the internal milk demand would be at 1.4 trillion liters of milk per annum way above what is currently produced.
Put it this way; if half of Uganda’s population consumed as per WHO guidelines, the internal demand would be at least 700 billion litres of milk per annum.
So Mr. President as you rightfully put it, Uganda is not producing surplus milk. Instead, the internal demand is affected by a growing divide between the rich and the poor.
Secondly there must be collusion amongst the major players in the milk industry to ensure farm gate prices are reduced so that they make abnormal profits.
Otherwise what explains the fact that whereas milk prices have dropped to as low as Shs400 in Western Ugandan, this columnist buys a liter of unprocessed milk at Shs1200 in the Eastern town of Mbale and packed milk at Shs2000?
Mr. President if the Mbarara milk can be transported and sold in Mbale even for as high as Shs800 per liter, the internal demand would absorb the surplus and moreover add more income to the milk farmers.
Am tempted to think that the ‘surplus’ is a creation of unscrupulous players in the Industry who are bent on exploiting our well deserving dairy farmers.
This takes me to the fish industry where media reports are awash with stories of fishermen complaining of abnormally low prices paid to them by fish processors. Fishermen are complaining that about two years back, fish processors who have a monopoly of fish were buying a kg of fish at Shs10,000 but today they are being paid Shs5000.
To make matters worse these processors have the monopoly; fishermen are not allowed to sell even to the locals!
Mr. President, again in Mbale, a kg of fish goes for Shs15,000. How then can an exporter buy fish at Shs5000 and yet your voters are paying through the nose for the same fish.
If these exporters reason that the world fish market has shrunk, let the local Ugandan be allowed to eat his/her fish even at Shs10,000 per kg and exploitative tendencies in this industry are done away with.
Something strikingly similar in these two industries is that there are monopolistic in nature. For milk there are three major players i.e. Fresh Dairy linked to a powerful Kenyan family, Lato Dairy whose products are now banned from Kenya for no given reason and Jesa Milk. In the Fish sector, there are not more than 5 factories processing and exporting fish.
This means that these firms easily collude and form a Mafia like cartel where Ugandan fishermen and dairy farmers are defrauded as government surprisingly looks on.