Big business and fast food boost milk production in developing regions, says FAO report 

E-mail bulletin on world dairy industry available

Regularly updated information about developments in the world dairy industry can be obtained electronically through Dairy Outlook, an e-mail service issued by FAO's Basic Foodstuffs Service. The service is based on an exchange of information, in which subscribers are asked to contribute statistics, reports, newspaper clippings, weather/ pasture/ production reports, prices and other relevant material.
In May, for example, Dairy Outlook reported that plans for expanding the milk industry in Argentina and Uruguay have been hit by drought. For Argentinian farmers, this is the second year in a row that plans for increasing production have been thwarted by lack of rain. In 1996, dairy farm deliveries in the country rose by only 3 percent, half the growth expected.
The same Dairy Outlook included a story on Madagascar, where imports of 800 Dutch cows have been blocked because of concern that they may introduce "mad cow disease" into the country. The foreign cows would be expected to yield considerably more milk than local animals which give only 5 to 10 litres a day. Although milk consumption on the island is low, at just 14 litres per person per year, domestic production does not meet demand. 
"The dairy industry in developing regions, especially Asia and Latin America, is growing fast - a fact that is concealed by global milk production figures that show only a 1 or 2 percent change per year," according to Michael Griffin, an FAO commodity specialist. The global figures also conceal a steep decline in output in eastern Europe and the former USSR since 1990. In his paper, "World Dairy Situation: Changes and Trends", Griffin forecasts a shift in the balance of milk production away from developed countries to the developing countries.

Increased consumption of dairy products in Latin America and Asia is fueled by rapid growth in the numbers of city dwellers with more money to spend, and by the market dominance of big business. Fast food giants and supermarkets with refrigeration banks displaying hundreds of cheeses and yogurts have changed centuries of eating habits.Consumers across the globe can now choose from a vast array of dairy products.

"Where once there might have been simply milk, we now have milk in a multitude of fat combinations, enriched or flavoured in varying ways, and aimed at various sections of the market - pregnant women, toddlers, children, adolescents, slimmers, active adults, pensioners", the report says.

Mexico: milk is now marketed for every kind of consumer 

"In this respect," Griffin remarks, "dairy could be termed the 'greeting card industry' of the food world. It often seems as if a product is available for every age and occasion."

In many Southeast Asian countries, consumers used to shy away from cheese as smelly and even poisonous. But the now ubiquitous pizza restaurants and hamburger chains are big users of cheese, milk and whey powder.

"McDonald's in Australia uses one kg of cheese for ever four kg of beef", Griffin points out. "If this figure is considered in terms of McDonald's global coverage -21,000 restaurants in 101 countries - it amounts to a substantial amount of cheese."

Although dairy farmers in developing countries wishing to boost production may look to cows, almost a third of milk production in these countries comes from other animals - buffaloes, sheep, goats and camels. Consumers in the developed countries get 99 percent of their dairy products from cows' milk. But buffalo milk makes up 10 percent of world milk production, with half of India's annual production of 67 million tonnes of milk coming from buffaloes.

6 June 1997

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