Report on the FAO E-mail conference on
"Small-scale Milk Collection and Processing
in Developing Countries"

29 May to 28 July 2000

The Conference Moderators:

Anthony Bennett,
Jurjen Draaijer
Brian Dugdill
Jean-Claude Lambert
Tek Thapa

Animal Production Service
Animal Production and Health Division
Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations
Rome, Italy



Executive summary

Chapter 1: Introduction


Chapter 2: Conference Design

Chapter 3: Summary of Proceedings

Topic 1: From Farm to Collection Point
Discussion Papers Topic 1
Poster Papers

Topic 2: Small-scale Milk Processing
Discussion Papers
Poster Papers

Topic 3: Milk Producers Organisations
Discussion Papers
Poster Papers

Chapter 4: Summary of Participation and Evaluation

Internet WebPages

Chapter 5: Conclusions and Recommendations



Conference Time-table
List of Participants
Conference Questionnaire
Conference Definitions and Rules
Introductory Paper, Discussion Papers, Poster Papers, and Comments Received on Topic 1: From Farm to Collection Point
Discussion Papers, Poster Papers, and comments received on Topic 2: Small Scale Milk Processing Technologies
Discussion Papers, Poster Paper and Comments Received on Topic 3: Milk Producer Organisations (MPO)



The focus of this E-mail conference was small-scale milk collection and processing. A huge information gap and lack of technical sharing of experiences and contacts have greatly inhibited the development of small-scale dairy development in developing countries. This E-mail conference was designed to address this critical gap. It has managed to bring together 571 stakeholders who have actively participated in the conference and provided some very interesting and valuable accounts of experiences in their countries.

The freeflow of information and opinions in addition to technical information have given a clear indication of the current challenges and opportunities in the small-scale sector. The feedback provided by participants will be one of the key reference points for guiding the short and medium term plans and activities of the Animal Production and Health Division of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in dairy development.

Readability and accessibility were the two main design criteria for these proceedings. Hyperlinks to the various chapters and subsections are included in the Table of Contents to increase speed of access to specific areas of interest. The main body of the document comprises around 40 pages only, all other text has been included in the annexes.

I trust that this report will serve as a valuable update for those working from policy to field level in the small-scale dairy sector in developing countries.

Hiroshi Kudo,
Chief, Animal Production Service
Animal Production and Health Division, FAO



The Animal Production Service would like to thank the authors of the discussion papers who have initiated the discussion through their high quality papers and have been supported by the posters papers which gave accounts of actual situations in the field. Clearly any conference cannot be a success without a significant level of participation by subscribers. The number of comments received clearly reflects the high level of interest and participation by the subscribers.

The conference moderators have done an excellent job of keeping the conference focused and active, which is reflected in this document. Particular thanks is extended to colleagues and collaborators who have provided contact information and promoted the conference through their various media e.g. Dairy Outlook mail list of the Commodities and Trade Division of FAO, the Federacion Panamericana de Lecheria (FEPALE), the mailing list of the Livestock Research for Rural Development newsletter (LRRD) and many others.

Special thanks also to Mr. John Rowell, Computing Services, FAO for enabling the conference to take place in such a timely and organised manner.



The interventions in this conference are the personal opinions of the participants. Unless otherwise specifically noted, the opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the participants’ affiliated organisations.



Executive Summary

Within FAO the Animal Production and Health Division has a small team working on global dairy development. The current focus of the team is on small-scale milk collection and processing in developing countries. The increase in human population results in an increased demand for livestock products.Small-scale milk processing has the capacity to meet a substantial part of these product requirements. The main driving force to attract smallholders into this supply cycle is to provide increased returns.

The objectives of the conference were to:

The conference was organised as an E-mail conference to have global outreach and facilitate rapid and efficient feedback, 571 participants subscribed from 97 countries. 69 percent of the participants were from or working in developing countries. In total, 29 percent of the participants contributed by either sending in comments and papers, or returning the questionnaire.

The three key topics chosen for the conference were: "From farm to collection point", "Small-scale milk processing technologies" and "Milk producers’ organisations". Discussion papers, supporting poster papers and active comments, feedback and interaction combined with 'trigger statements' resulted in a lively and interesting conference.

The key findings of the conference were:

  1. Poor farmer returns: Individual farmers or farmers groups in developing countries, in many cases, currently receive only a fraction of the retail price of their milk.
  2. Technical information and training. A significant gap exists in technical information and skills development in small-scale milk collection and processing.
  3. Technologies. There is a lack of low cost small-scale milk cooling and processing technologies.
  4. Small-scale milk collection and processing is highly relevant in developing countries. Focused E-mail conferences on small scale milk collection and processing provide a valuable platform for information exchange and discussion.
  5. Legal instruments covering the dairy sector in developing countries are frequently outdated and unsuited to current day market industry needs.
  6. Food Safety: pasteurisation of milk. Many consumers in developing countries are not aware of the hazards of drinking unpasteurised milk.
  7. Opportunities for small-scale dairy sector. Many governments are withdrawing from formal milk collection and processing, which has created an opportunity for small-scale milk processors to enter a lucrative market.
  8. Informal milk marketing continues to play an important part in the total milk marketed in developing countries.

The main recommendations of the conference are the following:

  1. Farmers and farmers groups need to increase their current returns from milk production through effective organisation and small-scale processing.
  2. FAO in collaboration with other international and regional partners is in an ideal position to provide technical guidelines and advice for sustainable development of small-scale milk collection and processing. Regional dairy training centres should be established where technology and training can be adapted to local needs.
  3. Low cost and small-scale milk cooling and processing equipment should be developed and promoted, that can be manufactured in many developing countries and can be adapted to meet market demanded products through simple processes.
  4. Follow-up E-mail conferences should be organised. Lessons learned from the E-mail conference should be used to organise focused follow up E-mail conferences. Follow-up regional workshops of the E-mail conference should be organised.
  5. A regulatory framework needs to be developed and adopted into each country’s national legislation to facilitate and encourage the development of a dynamic and vibrant small-scale sector.
  6. Governments and the private sector should take the lead in advising consumers on the potential hazards of consuming raw unpasteurised milk and dairy products.
  7. National government and legislators need to recognise the changes in the dairy sector in many developing countries.
  8. Organised small-scale milk collection and processing should be promoted not only as a sustainable, income-generating and household food security activity, but also as a means to improving the safety, quantity and quality of milk and dairy products available for consumers.




The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) was founded in October 1945 with a mandate to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, to improve agricultural productivity, and to better the condition of rural populations. Within FAO, the Animal Production and Health Division (AGA) has the mandate for livestock products processing. One of the key activities of the division is dairy development and the current focus is on the small-scale sector.

A small but dedicated team is working in the Division on livestock products processing, it currently has the following thematic strategy and focus:

The milk sector in developing counties was often dominated by a large and often state owned or controlled central dairy industry in the past. An increasing trend towards privatisation has resulted in the deregulation of these inefficient and poorly managed industries and presented a window of opportunity for the entry of private industry into the milk sector.

This unique set of circumstances has led to both a challenge and an opportunity for small-scale farmers and processors in developing countries. Firstly there is an ever-increasing market in the urban centres. The growth in urban populations, increased levels of education and income growth has resulted in a massive increase in demand for dairy products. The International Food Policy Research institute (IFPRI), using its International Model for Policy Analysis of Agricultural Consumption (IMPACT), predicts that the consumption of milk in developing countries will grow by 3.3% each year between the early 1990's and 2020. Translated into real figures this means that an additional 233 million metric tons of milk will be consumed in 2020, as compared with 1993.

The challenge now is to organise the collection of safe, good quality milk and provide a constant supply of quality milk and dairy products to meet market demands. At the same time, the market demand for value added products for a range of income levels should be met. Governments are also looking to find ways to reduce imports of food and food products that are a major burden on national budgets and especially on hard earned foreign currency.

Policies and strategies to promote milk production in developing countries often do not address the key issues of small-scale milk collection and processing and this acts as a limiting factor in the success of many interventions and projects in the sector. Growth and development of the small-scale sector can best be achieved through local level organisation of small-scale producers into working groups, associations or co-operatives. The main driving force to attract smallholders into this supply cycle is to provide increased returns to stimulate production and encourage uptake of improved technologies.

1.2 Objectives

The E mail conference was organised to pursue the above foci and also as a result of increasing demands to FAO for assistance from member countries regarding small-scale milk production and processing. The key objectives of the conference were to:

A list of the definitions and rules applied to the conference is outlined in Annex 4.

The following topics were discussed:

  1. Topic 1: From Farm to Collection point
  2. Topic 2: Small-scale Milk Processing Technologies
  3. Topic 3:Milk Producer Organisations (MPO's)

The conference proceedings will be used as the base document for a series of regional technical workshops are planned in South America, Africa, and Asia in 2001. A number of other supporting initiatives such as a directory of small and medium scale dairy equipment manufacturers and suppliers are also planned for the near future. It is envisaged that the outcome of these workshops will be incorporated both into future focused activities for the Animal Production and Health Division of FAO and also result in action plans for follow up activities in the regions.


Chapter 2 Conference Design

Conference planning started in September 1999 and was one of the key activities of the livestock products team of FAO Animal Production Service in the year 2000. The concept of the conference originated from the increasing number of queries and requests for technical information and guidance from small-scale milk processors or groups who were interested in starting up or expanding their businesses. The conference was designed by the livestock products team based at FAO headquarters and operated by a team of moderators.

Initially it was intended to have the conference in three languages, namely English, French and Spanish. However financial limitations restricted the conference to English only. As many of the people interested in small-scale milk collection and processing do not have access to Internet it was decided to base the conference on E-mail communication with the Internet as a backup. E mails included discussion papers, poster papers, trigger statements, issues raised by the moderators and comments from participants (see Box 2.1). In view of the fact that many subscribers have full time and demanding employment in the dairy sector, e-mail distribution was limited to two days per week, usually Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

The conference was designed to provide a platform for technical discussion and exchange of information of ideas and improvements in small-scale milk collection and processing. Over 2,000 e-mail invitations to participate were sent out by the conference team. The total number of participants was 571 representing 97 countries (see also Chapter 4).

The conference organisers identified and approached the authors of the discussion papers some months in advance. Author selection criteria included working with smallholders and having proven experience in the dairy sector of a developing country. The discussion paper format and relevant background documents were provided to the authors who were also advised to provide a simple text with a minimum of graphics etc to facilitate downloading and reading in lesser developed E mail servers (See Box 2.2 for details of the topics and papers).

The objective of the discussion papers was to provide information which would be of use to subscribers and also to stimulate discussion and feedback.

The objective of poster papers was to provide real examples of some of the practical challenges and solutions to problems in small-scale milk collection and processing. Some poster papers were solicited in advance and others were submitted by subscribers during the course of the conference.

The trigger questions were based on feedback and suggestions from subscribers, combined with the field experiences of the moderators. The questions generated a good response.

All papers and comments were reviewed by the moderators and forwarded to subscribers in clear and straightforward language which was easily understandable.



The e-mail conference was implemented using the FAO tailored list server of the mailserver. This allows the creation of a dedicated list where subscription was easy and rapid. Full subscription details were provided on the invitation E-mail and also through the Internet. Upon subscription each subscriber received a welcome message giving additional background information and the Internet address as a reference point.

E-mails were posted in text only to the mailing list. Some problems were reported in returns of messages to the server but most were due to simple spelling errors in E-mail addresses and easily resolved.

Internet site

An Internet site was set up for the conference under the Animal Production and Health Division of FAO and was updated once a week. The Internet site can be found at: For a sample of the Internet WebPages, see box 2.4.


Chapter 3 Summary of Proceedings

Topic 1: From Farm to Collection point

Discussion papers Topic 1

The following discussion papers were sent out to participants (see Annex 1 for full text versions):


"Clean Milk Production and Support Services"

Dr O. P. Sinha. Consultant, Dairy Farmers' Organisation, Management and Training, A/6 Avkar Apartment, Near IRMA. ANAND 388 001, India.

"Milk Collection, Preservation and Transport"

Jose Pedro Urraburu, Manager, Pan American Dairy Information System (INFOLECHE), a service of the Pan American Dairy Federation (FEPALE), Montevideo, Uruguay.

"Milk Testing, Quality Control, Hygiene And Safety"

Roberto Giangiacomo, Istituto Sperimentale Lattiero Caseario, Lodi, Italy.

"Milk Payments; General Considerations"

RenÚ Metzger, France.


O.P. Sinha outlined the importance of milk as part of agricultural production, household food security and nutrition at both the family level and for consumers as a whole. Substantial losses of milk can occur at farm level when hygienic practices are not in place. The importance of clean milk production was highlighted and the key contamination points were highlighted and control measures outlined. The importance of adequate support services e.g., veterinary health and quality feed inputs, and their availability even at village level was highlighted as one of the main prerequisites for the successful development of a sustainable small-scale milk production sector to meet the growing demand for quality milk by consumers.

Sinha identified one of the major driving forces for the improvement of clean milk production to be a hygienic quality based payment system. Knowledge of hygiene was reported as not being adequate in many developing countries and a concerted "Education-extension" services approach was recommended. The greatest contribution which these services could contribute was identified as the development of awareness amongst milk producers/groups of clean milk production in sanitary conditions and improved animal health care. Service delivery is required at village level and women should play a key role in the organisation and delivery of the services.


The paper from JosÚ Pedro Urraburu referred to a South American situation where farm size and hence cow numbers are larger. Milking on the farm is often done by machine, but again the importance of hygienic practices during the milking process was highlighted. When there is a lack of sufficient dairy infrastructure, groups of producers can share their cooling equipment investment costs or organise the timely collection of milk within two hours of milking. Where a reliable electrical supply is available the importance of rapid milk cooling e.g., by plate heat exchanger, can greatly improve the keeping quality of the milk. A range of milk cooling equipment is currently available at low cost including water spray, immersion and in line heat exchange coolers.

As dairy farm sizes have grown due to scale of economy, the frequency of milk collection has dropped. If long intervals cannot be avoided the milk should be cooled to 2C prior to transportation. Milk collection should be carried by a fair and impartial party to ensure that all milk supplied is correctly and accurately recorded and representative samples taken and properly stored. Milk transport should maintain the temperature during transportation e.g., the use of cooler boxes, insulated containers or in situ chilling units.

Uraburru provided a case study of a Brazilian dairy co-operative where farmers have significantly reduced their milk collection costs through sharing the burden of common milk cooling tank costs. They shortened the milk collection route, reduced the frequency of collections and significantly improved the quality of milk collected. Comprehensive detailed lists and prices of milk tanks, cans and machines in Brazil are also provided.


Giangiacomo outlined the differences in milk composition due to the influence of breed, feeding and environmental factors. The farmer was identified as the key quality controller on the farm. Some of the most common quality control and hygiene tests (increasingly rapid tests) are briefly described and he advises that simple and cheap tests are highly effective even if not as accurate as modern computer based testing.

Developed countries have many regulations and standards established regarding the composition and quality of milk. On of the main challenges which remains for developing countries is the presence of zoonotic diseases which can adversely affect both human and animal health. Some reports indicate that 10- 20% of raw milk sampled may contain harmful organisms such as E Coli, Brucella Melitensis, Listeria etc. However the effect of this level of contamination on a given population requires in depth study to quantify and qualify the negative effects of harmful organisms over a period of time. The adoption of sanitary provisions should take account of the actual incidence of foodborne illnesses, the vector food products and specific and effective control measures.


Metzger details the complexity of milk payment systems and identifies some of the key determining factors which have to be considered. Frequently the cost of milk production is difficult to calculate as it should theoretically include all costs e.g., family labour and time. Estimates of costs are generally used. For the farmer the price of milk includes labour, fodder, cattle foodstuffs, breeding, farm rent, financial expenses etc., for the processor the price depends on the composition of milk, (fat and protein content), on the bacteriological quality, and on the seasonal market etc. To factor in the cost of seasonal pricing of milk the average weighted yearly figure should be used as a reference. Milk payment systems are now generally focused on a combination of physio-chemical and bacteriological criteria. The best results have been shown to occur with a standard price with incentives for higher quality and penalties for lower quality and strict rejection of adulterated unsuitable milk (e.g., antibiotics present) or lack of temperature control. A methodology for calculation of farmgate price is suggested.

Milk collection costs can be quite substantial where the production area is dispersed and producers have only limited quantities of milk. The value of group formation and bulking/setting up of chilling/collection centres is highlighted as being essential to reduce milk collection prices. The use of local transport means is recommended.


Poster papers Topic 1

For full text version see Annex 1. The following poster papers were sent out during this topic:

"The Lactoperoxidase System (LP-s) of Milk Preservation"

Anthony Bennett, Dairy Consultant, FAO Rome.

"A Case Study of the Production of Milk by Rural Farmers in the Highlands of South Africa"

Nellie A. Prinsloo and J.J. Keller, ARC-Animal Nutrition and Animal Products Institute, P/B X2, Irene, 0062, RSA

"The System of Milk Payment In Nepal - Experiences from NDDB"

Ram Milan Upadhayay, Senior Dairy Specialist, Nepal

Bennett outlined the importance of milk both as a regular and constant household income and its contribution to food security. Up to 20% of milk in developing countries is estimated to be lost due to souring/spoilage. In 1991 the Codex Alimentarius Commission approved a guideline on the use of the Lactoperoxidase system of milk preservation.

Lactoperoxidase is an enzyme, which is naturally occurring in milk and can be reactivated to extend the shelf life of raw milk by 7-8 hours at an ambient temperature of 30C. The system is ideal for use in developing countries where there is a lack of cooling facilities. Perhaps the greatest beneficiaries will be the rural women who can use this system to preserve their milk for the hours required to transport the milk to nearby markets. FAO is promoting the system through the Global Lactoperoxidase Programme under which a series of national demonstrations of the use and regulation of the system will be held.


Prinsloo and Keller give an account of the effect of a training programme for improved milk quality and hygiene for Thaba Dairies in South Africa. The dairy has a capacity of 14,000l/d and produces fresh milk, yoghurt, drinking yoghurt, fermented dairy products, cheddar and Gouda cheese. Milk is supplied by 40 shareholders living within a 70km radius of the plant.

The vast majority of the shareholders milk by hand and transport milk by light open truck, donkey, horse, tractor and bicycle to the collection points. A detailed training programme for the farmers was organised which focused on the following areas: personal hygiene, improved milking practices and materials, micro-organisms- importance, destruction and control, cleaning and disinfection

The result of the training programme was a 70% reduction in bacterial counts and keeping time increased from 3 to 7 days. The Lactoperoxidase system of milk preservation was identified as having huge potential to improve rural milk collection in South Africa.


Upadhayay describes the development of the milk payment system in Nepal. Historically there is a long tradition of product processing (mainly for preservation due to difficult transport conditions) in Nepal. Traditional products include butters, Ghee and hard cheeses.

In the 1950s the price for milk for processing was linked for fat percentage e.g. if 4-6% fat the milk price was Rs. X per unit of milk, the price for 6-8 and >8% fat was 1.5X and 2X respectively. Farmers were quick to identify various means whereby the fat percentage could be artificially inflated and soon most milk tested had >8.5% fat.

A linear fat percentage system was then introduced where Rs X per fat percentage per unit of milk was fixed for all milk deliveries which contained above the minimum fat level fixed at 5%. The current payment system is based on fat and SNF but many adulteration practices are suspected at field level. A proposal for a new system whereby payment will be based on fat and protein content and on microbiological quality (graded) is now being developed.


Comments Topic 1

For full text version refer to annex 1. The following comments on topic 1 were received and replied to by the relevant party.


Further to: Topic 2: Small-scale milk Processing Technologies

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