Little prepared me for what to expect when Vital Tomosi's Dairy (VTD), popularly known for the MilkMan brand, hosted the media at their factory in Rushere, Kiruhura district, on June 10.
The facility, which is a joint venture between Vital Capital Fund and Tomosi's Farm, was unveiling the newest product, Long Life Milk, to supplement MilkMan yoghurt it launched six months ago.
Long Life Milk, which comes in a one-litre pack, joins the competition of existing Ultra-high temperature (UHT) processed brands from companies such as Jesa, Brookside and Paramount, among others.
While touring the expansive facility, Eyal Jonas, the MilkMan chief executive officer, said it took the company four years to set up the $13m facility in Uganda with the first two for research and understanding the market and the other two for setting up the factory.
At the moment, the state-of-the-art factory has two production lines, one for yoghurt and another for UHT milk, and processes up to 50,000 liters of milk per day. As part of the tour, The Observer visited a waste water treatment facility.
Most companies that operate in Uganda have not put in place proper waste management and disposal facilities and because of this, there is disease outbreak in the community and other problems such as contamination of products at the factories.
VTD employs hundreds of Rushere residents with many of them working in the packaging department. There are also several tractor drivers, cleaners, machine operators, security guards and farmers who have all benefitted from this project. There are even some veterinary doctors hailing just a few kilometres from the factory.
During the tour of the nearby community, The Observer talked to Jackson Muhumuza, a farmer, who said the factory has changed business in the area. "We used to walk long distances to sell our milk to middlemen that used to cheat us," he said. "But now we have a ready market to supply the milk at good prices."
Jones reiterated the company's goal of enriching lives while providing good quality dairy products on the market. "This project is a perfect example of how financial profit and positive social purpose can come together to benefit both investors and local communities. When fully implemented, we will further improve the income of small hold farmers, establish distribution of quality dairy products to the region, improve the food security condition, reduce costs for consumers, and of course return profit to our investors. This is impact investing."
According to 2016 figures from Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos), the dairy industry is largely unorganized with the presence of a large number of small-scale dairy farmers who contribute 80 percent to the overall milk production.
Out of the total raw milk production of 2.8 billion litres in 2015 across the nation, only 40 per cent was consumed in processed form such as cheese, butter, milk powder and yoghurt. Additionally, around 20 per cent of raw milk gets wasted due to lack of proper storage facilities.
Hopefully, that wastage will reduce thanks to new players such as MilkMan, who have put in place large scale production systems and advanced processes to ensure that the dairy by-products are properly preserved and transported from the farm to the market.