Bangkok, 31 May 2011 -- World Milk Day is celebrated tomorrow in Thailand and many other countries in the world. In the context of poverty and malnutrition in Asia, milk has a special role to play for its many nutritional advantages as well as providing income for millions of small-scale farmers.
In 2010 Asia’s milk production crossed the 250 million tonnes mark, meaning that the region’s output increased fivefold over the last four decades. Over this same period, annual per capita consumption of milk has grown from 20 kilograms (kg) to 70 kg.
“Produced by hundreds of millions of farm households and backed by countless rural farmers’ organizations and dairy cooperatives in over 25 countries, Asia’s milk production increase is one of Asia’s most celebrated success stories in development”, says FAO’s regional chief Hiroyuki Konuma.
The dairy sector sustains the income and employment of millions of farm families, provides milk for nutrition, and draught animal power and manure for agriculture.
In addition, current high prices for milk products have further induced renewed interest in dairy development in Asia, particularly in recognition of the nutritional importance of milk in rural communities. Nearly 80 percent of fresh milk produced in Asia is supplied by smallholders with women farmers playing important roles.
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 nutritious global food, enphasizing the continued need to improve the nutritional status of children and undernourished people.
Since the early 1970s, FAO has been a partner in Asia’s dairy movement. With several hundreds of millions US dollars funding from a wide range of development partners, FAO has implemented numerous technical assistance projects for direct or indirect support to dairy development in Asia, including projects supporting the production of green fodder and animal feeds, animal health and production, animal breeding and artificial insemination, dairy processing and enterprise development, and pro-poor livestock policy and development.
"This long-term commitment and concerted efforts have facilitated the success of the dairy sector in Asia' Konuma added.
A US$250 million Asia dairy development strategy and plan was launched recently, and with funding from the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) and FAO the first programme started this year benefitting Bangladesh and Thailand.
The way ahead
“The dairy industry in Asia is undergoing rapid changes catering to newly emerging consumer demands, and resulting in diverse ranges of dairy products. Packaging and food safety are key components of the dairy industry,” says Vinod Ahuja, livestock policy officer based at the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok.
FAO is providing key scientific advice, and raise awareness of risk-analysis principles for food safety authorities in the dairy sector.
FAO is also providing support to dairy farmers to increase farm productivity and income by addressing the relatively poor per animal milk production in Asia, ranging from a low of less than 1 000 kg/year in Bangladesh and Mongolia to a high of 3 000 kg/year in Thailand.
This work focuses inter alia on improving animal productivity through breeding programme, promoting feeding and husbandry practices, minimizing post production losses and promoting farmer organizations for enhancing the bargaining power of small and poor farmers.
It also looks at animal disease control and related health interventions to minimize animal and production losses.
FAO is cooperating with member governments, the private sector, donors and development partners such as CFC, Denmark, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, the World Bank and the World Food Programme to promote the dairy sector in developing countries.
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