Why Uganda is preparing to register cattle by issuing them birth certificates

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
Ugandan president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni at his cattle ranch

As part of measures to meet international market demands, the Ugandan government is planning to register all farmers and their cattle, and issue the animals with birth certificates to enable their products to be traced.

Vincent Ssempijja, Uganda’s Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, who disclosed this on Tuesday, said the European market demands that all countries producing food for it should have proof of traceability.

“They want to know where the [meat and crop] products are coming from. They have been impounding and banning all consignments from Uganda if they find one box with issues.

“Farmers will be registered and their products given barcodes so that if they find a problem with one box, they look for the source and sort out the problem. We cannot enter lucrative markets unless farmers register,” he said at the official opening of the National Agricultural Show in Jinja, southern Uganda.

“For cattle farmers, it is going to be worse. You will be registered as a farmer, the cow will be registered, numbered and will have a birth certificate because the importers of our products demand meat for cows aged between 15 to 24 months. So we are going to sell [the meat] depending on their age,” he was quoted by The East African.

Following the recent damage to the European food industry caused by the BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) known as “mad cow disease” crisis of the 1990s, the European Union (EU) introduced reforms in relation to food safety. Food traceability was the result.

“Traceability is the ability to track any food, feed, food-producing animal or substance that will be used for consumption through all stages of production, processing and distribution. In the event of a food incident, it enables the identification and subsequent withdrawal or recall of unsafe food from the market. If the food has not reached the consumer, a trade withdrawal is undertaken. If the food has reached the consumer, a product recall is undertaken which includes notification of the consumer through in-store notices and press releases,” explains The European Food Information Council.

Per the legislative requirements – Regulation 178/2002 – every food and feed business in Europe and those bringing food or feed into Europe must have a traceability and recall system in place.

“All food and feed businesses must be able to identify where their raw materials (e.g. ingredients and packaging) come from and where their products are going or have gone to, i.e. they must be able to identify one step back and one step forward in the food chain. The latter, however, is not applicable to businesses selling directly to the final consumer,” The European Food Information Council said.

In Uganda, where Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, the sector employs over 70 per cent of the population and contributes about 25 per cent of the national GDP, statistics cited by The East African said.

The country’s cattle production, especially around areas in South Western Uganda, has, however, been facing a challenge of ticks and tick-borne diseases.

The Agric Minister, at the launch of the National Agricultural show, said an audit team from the European Union will be in Uganda by September to ensure that all farmers producing commodities destined for Europe are registered.

“Apart from traceability of the products, the team also wants to ensure that farmers benefit directly because many of them are cheated by middlemen. Government will not cater for those who defy the order when it comes to markets,” he said.

In a message read on his behalf, President Yoweri Museveni said the new measure of registration is necessary.

“People want to know what they are buying to eat, where it is coming from, its quality and what they are spending their money on. Registering farmers is a major requirement; we cannot do without it and if we ignore it, we will lose to competition in the international market.”

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