Uganda: British Market Should Benefit All Uganda Beef Cattle Farmers

(file photo).
26 January 2020
opinion

This week, President Museveni was in London to attend the United Kingdom-Africa Investment Summit 2020. The "invest in Africa" business conference was, as usual, graced by the presence of many African heads of state hoping to attract British investors.

In a post by President Museveni on social media site Twitter, he said: "I am glad that in his speech, British prime minister Boris Johnson indicated that our products, including Uganda's beef, would find its way onto the dining table of post-Brexit Britain. Our position has always been balanced trade that benefits all parties."

Ordinarily, all Ugandan farmers, especially the cattle keepers, should have celebrated upon hearing the prospect of their products being displayed in British supermarkets such as Sainsbury's and Tesco.

However, many were left wondering if the beef being talked about will not actually be from just a few elites and politicians.

There is great potential for Ugandan beef, which Uganda Investment Authority says is low in fat and cholesterol, which is desired in some developed countries. Therefore, beef from Uganda undeniably has significant money making potential, not just in Britain, but in other markets around the world.

But there is fear that majority of Ugandan cattle keepers are unlikely to benefit from the President's efforts in London.

While President Museveni was still in London, real life concerns were playing out back at home.

First, there is the foot and mouth disease issue that seems to reoccur in the districts of Nakasongola, Nakaseke, Gomba, Sembabule and Luweero in central Uganda.

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, foot and mouth disease causes low milk production and death in infected cattle. Furthermore, global laws and regulations prohibit the export of livestock products of infected animals.

Since 2017, cattle keepers in Uganda have battled the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. Many cattle keepers say the situation is not only tragic, but has attracted the interest of selfish individuals who are trying to exploit if for their financial gain.

Although the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries declared a quarantine in identified areas, effectively closing cattle markets to prevent the spread foot and mouth disease, some livestock farmers in the central believe it was an unfair and politically driven decision.

"We cannot contain foot and mouth disease if a quarantine is applied selectively with politicians taking charge of the process for their selfish benefits. The public should know that the quarantine politics has been around for some time with a section of the leaders directly taking charge for selfish ends and when we protested we are arrested," Mr Elly Muhumuza, the Sembabule District chairperson, told this newspaper.

Consequently, either by design or coincidence, the unidentified individuals seem to have successfully created confusion and diverted government's attention away from implementing effective foot and mouth disease vaccination programmes in the central region.

Although the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) recommend disease free zones as a viable way by which foot and mouth disease infected countries can produce livestock products and it would be accepted at international markets, unfortunately as it stands, products from central Uganda will be denied access to the London market.

Ms Victoria Nyeko is a media commentator.

nyeko.victoria@yahoo.com

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