FAO Liaison Office with the Russian Federation

Livestock sector needs protection and guidance

Foto: ©FAO

A wide range of bread-and-butter issues were discussed during the XXII International Scientific and Practical Conference dedicated to the memory of renowned Russian scientist, innovator and tutor Vasily Gorbatov. The Moscow-based Gorbatov Federal Scientific Centre for Food Systems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Conference convener, celebrates its 90th anniversary this year. 

The virtual forum held on 25 November focused on “Food systems. Biosafety, technology and engineering”. The agenda encompassed such topics as production of safe food products of guaranteed quality; prevention of the circulation of pathogens and viruses in food systems; food and human health, etc. 

Dr Eran Raizman, DVM, Senior Animal Health and Production Officer at the FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, delivered a keynote presentation on “Global trends in the livestock sector” before the  audience of  over 200 individual and institutional participants. 

The global livestock sector is huge on all counts. It uses 30 percent of land surface, 70 percent of agriculture land and is responsible for 8 percent of human freshwater consumption. The “stock” incorporates 1.7 billion cattle and buffalo, 2.2 billion sheep and goats,  over1 billion pigs and 30 billion poultry. 

In economic terms, the livestock sector makes up 40 percent of agriculture GDPemploys 1.3 billion people, provides livelihoods to 800 million smallholders and its production is worth around USD 1.4 trillion. In terms of subsistence, it provides 17 percent of all globally consumed calories and 26 percent of proteins, not to forget valuable micronutrients. 

In view of growing global population, to satisfy the increased demand by 2050 we will need to boost annual production by 1 billion tonnes of dairy products and 60 million tonnes of meat. 

The key solution within the Sustainable Development Goals is Intensification. H what does it mean and entail for smallholders in developing countries? 

Dr Eran Raizman provided one of the most likely and calculable forecasts. “Of the world’s nearly one billion smallholder livestock producers it is expected that one third of them will find alternative livelihoods, another one third may or may not be part of the sector’s transformation, and the remaining one third will succeed at market-oriented livestock livelihoods.” 

As the FAO expert pointed out, “the transition is an opportunity to close production gaps.” The Backyard Sector, noted for being highly variable, highly seasonal, non-professional (since for many this occupation provides a secondary income), and yet, very dynamic, may provide an answer. Nevertheless, it is prone to many challenges that adversely affect the effectiveness of this trade. 

One of the major handicaps, as highlighted by Dr Raizman, is failure to ensure prevention and control of animal diseases. There are several reasons for this inherent drawback, like “poor awareness, poor compliance, defiance of stamping-out approach and low trust in authorities.” 

The spread of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is one of the major challenges for smallholders since these substances are still widely used and overused as growth promoters. The situation is exacerbated by “lack of governance and political will, lack of control on antibiotic sale and use, and absence of data on AMR on the country level,” emphasized Dr Raizman. No less worrisome is “lack of knowledge and awareness on prudent use” among smallholder farmers, and not all among this category of rural dwellers. Moreover, the main problem among large poultry and swine production is the use of antibiotics as growth promoters, something the EU has already banned in 2006. 

What should be done under these dire circumstances? “Smallholder livestock owners should not be left behind and need to benefit from the positive changes, – stressed Dr Raizman. “Addressing the impact of the (livestock sector) growth on the environment, diseases spread and AMR must be high on the agenda.” 

In a wider context, technical and information support to farmers in the global livestock sector fits well with the 2030 Agenda and the pledge by UN Member States to ensure that “no one will be left behind”.