The future of dairy farming in Western Uganda hangs in balance as model farmers in several districts are slowly quitting citing low milk prices. A majority of farmers have reportedly abandoned dairy farming in preference of crop agriculture. They cite the low prices of milk products and increased cost of production. Boaz Akankwasa Rwensha, a dairy farmer in Kakiika parish in Mbarara district says a liter of milk costs less compared to the money they release from its sale. According to Akankwasa the farm gate price for a liter of milk has stagnated at shillings 400 for the last 10 years yet they inject a lot of money to manage the farms and control disease.
Akankwasa is slowly moving to goat rearing and banana growing with the hope of making more profits at a less production cost. Kabagambe Kabuga another renowned dairy farmer in Biharwe Sub County has abandoned dairy farming and resorted to piggery. Kabagambe claims that he has been investing too much money in dairy farming but recoups little in return compared to piggery. Kabagambe claims that the high costs coupled with the increase in fake pesticides have made it difficult for him to cling on dairy farming.
Over the last two years, models farmers in Bushenyi district have been selling off their best breeds of dairy cattle to Rwanda at a tune of 4 million shillings each. Pedson Ainomugisha, a member of Bushenyi dairy farmer’s cooperative society says that they decided to sell off their dairy cattle after failing to earn from their efforts. He says that the farmers took advantage of the demand for dairy cattle in Rwanda to sell off their animals and invest in better paying ventures.
He says that unless government intervenes and provides farmers with quality pesticides and standardize milk prices, many of them are ready to abandon dairy farming. But Clayton Arinanye, the manager Uganda Crane Creameries Co-operative Union—UCCCU which is comprised of unions from eight district is optimistic that milk prices will improve once farmers invest in processing their milk.
Arinanye says that they are working working on procuring more coolers to help the farmers preserve their milk. He says that they are also working towards establishing a mega dairy factory in Mbarara to address the problem of low farm gate prices. Stephen Aikiriza, the South Western manager Dairy Development Authority says that in 2012 over 100m liters of milk were produced in Western region. 3.4 billion liters of milk are produced by dairy farmers across the country annually.