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5. Weaknesses in the livestock industries of Asia: results from a survey of livestock policy makers and researchers

An FAO sponsored workshop attended by policy makers, researchers and officials from developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region was held in Bangkok in February 2001 to consider recent developments in the livestock industries and to discuss what form government policies for these industries should take. As part of this process, participants discussed various aspects of the livestock industries, including the strengths and weaknesses that they believed existed in the livestock sectors of their own countries. The purpose of this chapter is to outline the findings. Information such as this is important and useful since it serves to highlight areas where additional research is required and it also helps to identify emerging policy issues.


The material presented in this chapter is not based upon a formal survey. Participants at the FAO workshop provided an overview of the livestock sector in their home countries. Following each presentation, there was a general discussion by researchers and policy makers familiar with the livestock industries in the region. The results are based upon this discussion. An important caveat to the material in this chapter is that the views and opinions reported here should not be attributed to particular individuals from the participating countries. The points made about particular countries often emerged from discussion about that country by all conference delegates.

The problems mentioned have been grouped into a number of broad categories as follows:

Responses were placed into one of these categories to gain insights into where the main weaknesses were perceived to exist. Clearly, some of these categories overlap. Furthermore, a clear-cut classification of the problem in some cases does not exist. No explicit recording of the frequencies of mentions of particular problems/issues was made. The comments made in the discussion in regard to the number of times a particular issue was raised are therefore subjective. Table 22 summarises the problems/weaknesses that were mentioned during the course of the workshop

Table 22 Problems identified by workshop participants, February 2001


Type of problem

Specific problem mentioned




- Restricted market access and low and unstable prices
- Low profits due to payment of high commissions to too many middlemen


- Minimum availability of extension services and facilities


- Livestock farmers have limited political influence and are not well organized to lobby for their industry

Sri Lanka


- Lack of suitable animals with an adequate genetic potential
- Shortage of feed resources at affordable prices
- Effects of disease both on mortality and productivity



- Limited market access


- Lack of suitable land
- Low productivity
- A low level of technology
- Poor management
- Poor quality feed and forage
- Poor hygiene
- A lack of breeding stock


- Limited access to capital



- Feed supply, specifically limited dry season green growth, and much forage has low nutritional value
- Disease control
- Low productivity


- Inadequate animal health service available
- Limited technical support and insufficient proven practical livestock extension
- There is a general lack of technical knowledge on application of newer more intensive animal production technologies


- Unstable product price
- Processing activities have not been developed




- Lack of availability of quality stocks of animals
- Recurrent disease outbreaks


- Poor marketing systems
- Low cash flow



- High animal losses through infectious diseases
- Low reproductive and production rates
- Production losses through poor management and internal parasites
- Expense of vaccines for some infectious diseases
- Farmers are reluctant to use vaccines or are unaware of the benefits
- Lack of energy and protein sources for pigs and poultry and during the dry season for cattle/buffalo
- Little appreciation of the role of nutrition in production losses
- Little knowledge about local feed sources


- Inadequate and inconsistent supply of vaccines


- Poor meat processing and marketing facilities



- Severe degradation in some areas


- Poor infrastructure
- Inefficient technical services and disease control


- Land rights are weak providing little protection to farmers
- Weak bargaining power of farmers


- Distorted price signals
- Difficult to gain access to markets


- Weak ability to invest in pasture improvement

The following observations may be made based upon the responses recorded in this table and upon the discussion that took place in the workshop.

Box 15 Government agencies and Sri Lanka's livestock sector

Abeyratne (2001) describes government agencies in Sri Lanka. "The institutional support for the livestock industry in Sri Lanka is provided both by the state as well as private institutions. The state sector is mainly engaged in policy formulation and implementation and providing the public goods while the private sector, input supplies and marketing facilities. Several Ministries and state institutions are involved in livestock policy formulation and implementation and the supply of the public goods. The main Ministry responsible for livestock policy formulation is the Ministry of Livestock Development and Estate Infrastructure. There are other Ministries like, Ministries of Finance and Planning; Agriculture, Cooperatives and Food; Trade and Commerce; Health; Education and Higher Education; Mahaweli Development; Industries; Provincial Councils; Social Welfare and Samurdhi Development; Rehabilitation, Lands, Environment, etc. Thus policy formulation and implementation becomes a rather difficult matter when such a large number of Ministries are involved. When such a large number of Ministries are involved in livestock development, it is obvious that most state Departments under each Ministry too will be have something to contribute. Thus implementation of a clear government policy becomes rather a complicated matter."

Many - if not all - of the issues raised in Table 1 have also been identified in other fora as problems/issues. For example, in an Asian Productivity Organization seminar into marketing systems for farm products in Asia and the Pacific held in 1989, the problems listed included: inadequate collection, analysis and dissemination of timely and relevant marketing information; inadequate market infrastructure and facilities such as roads and transport, storage and warehouses, packaging and processing facilities; a bias towards production in the provision of institutional credit resulting in limited loans for marketing purposes; and absence of certified grading system/non-implementation of proper grading and standards (Asian Productivity Organization 1990). The same organisation in another seminar, but this time into agricultural cooperatives, found that cooperatives suffered because of marketing problems, government policy and intervention (some participants thought that there was too little, while others too much) and a lack of access to credit (Asian Productivity Organization 1991). A paper by Riethmuller and Smith (1999) into problems identified by Indonesian dairy experts came up with broadly similar results: the need for improved animal genetics, better extension and the need for improved animal health. That the same set of problems continue to persist is indicative of the degree of difficulty in resolving these problems.

Concluding comments

Policy makers are faced with the problem of allocating scarce research resources into areas that are likely to provide the greatest net benefit to the economy funding the research. To help them in this process, research of the type reported in this chapter is invaluable since it helps identify the priority areas. Production, marketing and infrastructure related issues were seen by the workshop participants to be of most importance to the livestock industries. Surprisingly, there was very limited discussion of the negative externalities associated with the intensive livestock industries. To a large degree, this was possibly a reflection of the belief no doubt held by many "that little or nothing could be done" to remedy these externalities. There would appear therefore to be a potentially high payoff from documenting the various approaches that have been taken in developed countries to help developing country policy makers devise feasible options. In the design of any policies, it needs to be recognized that a substantial part of agricultural production is provided by resource-poor farmers. This situation does not exist in the developed countries where fewer producers are providing an increasing share of production.


Abeyratne, A. S. 2001. Perspectives and Strategies for the Asian Livestock Sector in the next Three decades (2000-2030) - Sri Lanka. Unpublished report prepared for FAO, Bangkok.

Asian Productivity Organization. 1990. Marketing Systems for Farm Products in Asia and the Pacific. Tokyo.

Asian Productivity Organization. 1991. Agricultural Cooperatives in Asia and the Pacific. Tokyo.

Riethmuller, P. and D. Smith. 1999. Strengths and Weaknesses of the Indonesian Dairy Industry. Livestock Industries of Indonesia prior to the Asian Financial Crisis: RAP Publication 1999/37. FAO. Bangkok.

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