Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

01 June - World Milk Day

Milk, a winner in child nutrition

01 June - World Milk Day

Bangkok, Thailand, 28 May 2012 -- World Milk Day will be celebrated on 1 June in Thailand and many other countries in the world. Studies suggest consumption of milk and lowfat dairy products helps reduce risks of many chronic diseases and disorders, resulting in substantial better food security and nutrition as well as healthcare savings!

Milk production in Asia has expanded rapidly over the last three decades with annual milk production of 70 million tonnes in 1980 crossing the 260 million tonnes mark in 2010.  Over this same period, annual per capita consumption of milk has grown 3.5 times from 20 to 70 kg.

In comparison, world milk production increased from 465 million tonnes (1980) to 721 million tonnes (2010), increasing the share of Asia from 15 to 36 percent during the same period.

Demand for dairy products in the region has more than trippled since 1980 and despite the spectacular growth in production, production has lagged behind demand in many countries. As a result, dependency on the importation of milk and dairy products has increased and, with the recent global increase in prices for dairy products, the cost of imports has surged.

Around 80 percent of milk in Asia is produced by smallholders farmers. In addition, there are tens of millions of traders and dairy entrepreneurs – small and large – involved in the dairy sector.

“The smallholder dairy sector produces multiple benefits for its numerous stakeholders including income generation for small producers; off-farm job creation especially for women,  low energy use compared with industrialized dairy production; and improved household food security and nutrition”, FAO’s regional chief Hiroyuki Konuma said today at a press conference at the Thai Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives in Bangkok.

Nutritional role in children’s diets

Milk provides more calcium and protein per monetary unit compared to any other food served on school lunch menus.

“School milk programmes are seeing a resurgence of interest. Such programmes – with or without government support – provide an excellent opportunity to promote milk consumption amongst children and in so doing establish a life-time’s habit”, Mr Konuma added.

Decision maker in Asia – the region with most malnourished people in the world – should recognize milk’s benefits to the consumers themselves – the children, and ultimately society as a whole, the FAO statement added.

 The first World Milk Day was celebrated in June 2001 and has since become an annual event celebrated in a large number of countries throughout the world as a way to focus attention on milk as a global nutritious food, with a special emphasis on the nutritional status of children and undernourished people.

FAO has been an active partner in Asia’s dairy sector development and implemented a range of technical assistance projects for direct or indirect support to dairy development in Asia, including providing support on animal nutrition, generic improvement of dairy animals, processing and marketing, and overall capacity development.

FAO has also invested in setting up training centres for smallholder dairy producers and processors in a number of countries and provided assistance in dairy policy formulation and implementation around the region.

This support has paid rich dividends and generated many successful models in the dairy sector.

In recent years, FAO has been actively promoting South-South cooperation to facilitate knowledge exchange and experience in pursuit of increasing productivity, quality and profitability of dairy sector in Asia.

Vinod Ahuja, FAO livestock policy officer based in Bangkok, by mail on Vinod.Ahuja@fao.org