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Increased consumption of dairy products in Asia-Pacific is good news for small farmers while improving child nutrition

28/01/2016 Saraburi, Thailand

The increased consumption of dairy products in Asia and the Pacific is playing a vital role in improving child nutrition and boosting the livelihoods of small farmers across the region, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) announced today.

The announcement was made during the opening session of the Dairy Asia Regional Meeting held in Muak Lek, Saraburi, Thailand. The meeting was attended by a range of stakeholders including public officials, academia and the private sector from dairy-producing countries across Asia and the Pacific.

By the end of 2015, the Asia-Pacific region, as a whole, had achieved the Millennium Development Goal to reduce hunger and undernutrition by half. The increased production and consumption of dairy products in the region are widely viewed as having contributed to the overall success in improving nutrition.

School milk programmes linked to local smallholder dairy development, like those implemented in partnership with FAO and other organizations, have had considerable impact on improving nutrition and supporting rural livelihoods, the conference heard.

“I recently had a chance to visit Bangladesh and heard about the successful school milk pilot scheme implemented by FAO and how it made a difference in the overall wellbeing of the children, both in the classroom and at home, after receiving 200 ml of milk every day at school,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, during the opening day of the conference. “This shows the important role dairy has in supporting the overall health and well-being of children.”

Thailand has a long-running national school milk programme which was used as a model for the ones in Bangladesh and Myanmar. China, India, Japan and Viet Nam also have experience with school milk programmes at various levels.

Milk production a celebrated success story for smallholder farmers in Asia-Pacific – one in every five glasses of milk comes from India

Between 1980 and 2012, milk production in the Asia-Pacific region grew at a rate of almost 4.5 per cent per annum against the global average of 1.5 per cent. By 2012, milk production in the Asia-Pacific region had reached 280 million tonnes – 37 per cent of global production – or more than a third of all milk produced in the world.

Asia-Pacific has overtaken Europe as the world’s largest milk producing region. India is currently the largest producer of milk. One in every five glasses of milk comes from India.

“Dairy is among the top three commodities produced in this region in terms of gross value worth more than 110 billion dollars annually and the demand for dairy products hasn’t reached its peak. Not by a long shot,” Kadiresan added. “In the near future, during the next decade, we expect global production of milk to increase by more than 120 million tonnes and two-thirds of this increase will come from the Asia-Pacific region.”

“Milk production has been among the most celebrated success stories in Asia, and the authors of this success story are the millions of small farmers scattered across the region,” Kadiresan pointed out, adding “we must ensure that these small holders and the millions of women who contribute to the growing dairy production are treated fairly and that all are properly rewarded for their efforts.”

FAO Official Awarded

In recognition of FAO’s support in promoting sustainable dairy development in Asia, the Dairy Farming Promotion Organization of Thailand, presented a plaque to Vinod Ahuja, FAO Livestock Policy Officer, who has been leading the dairy program of FAO in the Asia-Pacific region. The award was presented by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand during the opening ceremony of the National Dairy Festival of Thailand and the launch of the Dairy Asia platform.

Vinod Ahuja has been an ardent advocate of the potential of the dairy sector to promote household-level food security, nutrition and empowerment of women in developing countries.  This has helped refocus attention on the dairy sector as an instrument of poverty alleviation and its ability to enhance rural livelihoods. In addition, Ahuja has been instrumental in developing a guiding framework paper for sustainable dairy development in Asia and in promoting the ‘Dairy Asia’ initiative that aims to nurture constructive dialogue among Asian countries towards the development of a more sustainable dairy sector in the region.

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