The ongoing drought experienced in many parts of Uganda has hit milk supplies hard, pushing up prices.
Industry players say supplies have dropped by as much as a quarter and that rising farm gate prices are forcing processors of milk and milk products to mark up their own prices.
The top three players — Jesa Farm Dairy, which produces Jesa Milk, Brookside Diaries which makes Fresh Diary and Premier Dairies, which produces Mega milk — have had to adjust their prices upwards in recent weeks.
In most urban centres, a litre of processed and pasteurised milk is selling for about Ush3,000 ($0.94) from Ush2,400 ($0.73) in November last year when prices began rising. Stockouts have also been reported in both big and small outlets.
Edwin Katende, a distribution manager at Jesa Farm Dairy, said that they were unable to meet the milk demand of their customers.
“We cannot even meet the needs of all our customers due to low production; we are now forced to outsource,” said Mr Katende.
Moses Byaruhanga, the director of Premier Dairies, said that milk supply was down to about a quarter of the farm’s usual production.
“Many adjustments have been made and as the price of milk goes up on the farm, we are forced to increase the price to suppliers,” he said.
Jesa Farm Dairy and Premier Dairies dominate the fresh milk retail market. Jesa has an installed capacity of 80,000 litres while Premier’s is between 15,000 and 20,000 litres. Uganda’s annual milk production stands at about 2.2 billion litres.
Timothy Nkuruzinza, a dairy farmer in Luwero district, said that the drought had affected the supply of fodder used as animal feed, thereby affecting milk production.
The effects of the drought present a reality check for the country’s underdeveloped animal husbandry practices. The country depends largely on the open grazing system, which is vulnerable to weather shocks.
According to Mr Byaruhanga who is also a senior presidential advisor on political affairs, recent intermittent rains have impacted on supplies. He said that the rains may support some growth of fodder but are not enough to rehydrate the cows.
“It could take up to a month with more regular rains for the supplies to stabilise and the prices to come down,” said Mr Byaruhanga.
Efforts to get a comment from the Dairy Development Authority on mitigation measures did not succeed as junior officials who were present at their offices would not comment.
Other food crops affected by the drought are maize, and matooke (banana), a common staple in Uganda.