Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to participate in this second regional dairy task force meeting for the Smallholder Dairy Development Program. I take this opportunity to extend my warm welcome to all the participating country representatives and project partners, the representative from CFC, Mr Francesco Gibbi and the representative of the supervisory body JLTA, Dr Teruhide Fujita. I wish to express my special gratitude to the Director General, Department of Livestock Development (DLD), Dr Ayuth Harintharanon, for his presence at the meeting.
As you know, FAO, CFC and APHCA have together developed a dairy development strategy and investment plan for Asia and the Pacific region. This was in recognition of dairy sector’s tremendous contribution to improving food security and nutrition of the poor, providing income for millions of small-scale farmers, and creating millions of off-farm and non-farm jobs in related industries like collecting, processing and distribution.
I myself happened to be a dairy specialist in technical field when I started my carrier. Therefore, I have been closely following up on this endeavour. Indeed, the demand for milk and milk products has continued to grow in the region. OECD-FAO outlook estimates that Asian milk demand will touch almost 320 million tonnes by 2020 and that means the region will need to increase milk availability by another 75 million tonnes by the end of this decade. This provides a perfect opportunity to invest in dairy development in the region. I think CFC has taken an important step in this context and I hope we can further build on this partnership, and also bring other partners, investors and donors on board.
This meeting is particularly important as it aims to review the process and the outcomes of the first intervention under the smallholder dairy development strategy. FAO has vast experience of implementing dairy development projects around the world and most of them have produced good results. But I believe this project has some new and innovative elements in the way it brings together issues in production, processing, quality assurance and consumption and also in the way it brings together various partners including consumers. I am pleased to note that the project has received recognition from both the Thai and Myanmar Governments. The public service award conferred by the Royal Thai Government and the School Milk award bestowed by Myanmar government are testimony to that recognition. I take this opportunity to congratulate the entire project team on this recognition and overall achievement. I also note that in Bangladesh new partners have taken interest in the project and in that context I welcome the representative of Milk Vita to this meeting. In addition to Milk Vita, Rabo Bank has recently signed a project with FAO on supporting a school milk pilot. We are presently finalizing the TeleFood projects in Myanmar in which school milk programme will be combined with Table for Two school garden programme as a joint effort. I certainly hope more parties and donors will join the endeavor of investing in smallholder dairy development in the region and link these to specific livelihoods and nutritional programmes.
While, we must take pride in our achievements, this must not result in any complacency about the challenges ahead. The production, marketing and consumption landscape of dairy sector in the region is changing constantly and becoming more complex. This is happening because of growing and constantly changing consumption demands, deepening regional and global integration, and growing public health and environmental concerns. The technology and institutional choices we make would need to be conscious and cognizant of these changes and that means we must constantly innovate in our approaches to development. At the same time, considering that nearly 80 per cent of the milk in the region is produced by smallholders, helping them organize themselves to give them better bargaining power in the market place must remain a core element of our work. While we recognize that bulk of investment will come from the private sector, we should work towards creating synergies and guiding private investment in a manner that it does not marginalize smallholder producers. This is particularly important in view of the growing regional and global integration such ASEAN Economic Community or other free trade agreements. We must work towards ensuring that these changes contribute towards making Asia Pacific a highly competitive economic region and fully integrated into the global economy but also a region that promotes and achieves equitable social and economic development, and reduce inequity and disparity among citizen in all communities. I believe, dairy sector can make tremendous contribution towards those objectives.
Before I conclude, I would like to mention three more points that I think are important as we continue our work in this sector. The first point relates to human nutrition. While Asia Pacific region has made remarkable economic progress over the last many decades, the levels of under-nutrition and malnutrition in the region continue to be very high. At the same time, there are emerging concerns about unhealthy consumption patterns stemming from poor awareness about proper nutrition. Many people in the region now consume excessive amounts of sugar and fats, leading to obesity and poor health. Nutritional well-being is being threatened by the rapid emergence of non-communicable diseases and vitamin and mineral deficiencies, creating a simultaneous double burden of existence of over- and under-nutrition. In this context, we must work towards raising consumer awareness about nutritional values of milk by bringing science based evidence about nutritional effects of milk and linking it with policy and regulation. indeed, milk is the most nutritionally balanced diet to meet the nutritional requirement of human body. We should advocate this further.
The second point relates to role of women in dairy sector. As you know, women have been and continue to be key actors in dairy sector, specifically in poor agrarian societies. Dairying provides women with a regular daily income, vital to household food security and family well-being. Women are not only centrally involved in milk production, but also in collection, processing and marketing of dairy products, roles which were often overlooked by development programmes. As we devise new projects and programs, we must ensure that the participation of women in dairy sector is not diminished and this participation must be such that the women not only contribute their labour but also become an active participant in strategic decision making.
The third point is the very low level of milk consumption, especially by children in developing countries in this Region. Despite of our all efforts, the level of milk consumption in developing countries in this Region is far below the level in developed countries, especially among children who need more milk to achieve better nutrition. We need further advocacy efforts to the public including the promotion of “World Milk Day” event.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I once again thank you for your active support in implanting various project activities and for your active participation in all the deliberations. I wish you all success in the deliberations and a pleasant stay in Thailand.
Thank you very much.