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World Milk Day was observed across the world, including in Bangladesh on June 1. It is an international day established by United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to recognize the importance of milk as a nutrient-rich food and to celebrate the dairy sector. Being observed on June 1 each year since 2001, the day provides an opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of dairy for attaining healthy diets, responsible milk production, and supporting dairy-dependent livelihoods and communities.

This year, the day focused on showcasing how dairy is reducing its environmental footprint, while also providing nutritious foods and improving livelihoods.

Milk and dairy products represent one of the most elemental foods for all age categories because of its nutrient composition. Milk and dairy products are a valuable source of high-quality protein, which is necessary for the growth and repair of body tissues, and the production of enzymes and hormones.  

They are also excellent sources of calcium, which is essential for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. Dairy products, including fortified milk, contain vitamin D. This vitamin aids in the absorption of calcium, promotes bone health and supports the immune system. Milk and dairy products also provide other important nutrients like potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B12, and riboflavin, which are necessary for various bodily functions. Some studies suggest that moderate consumption of milk and dairy products, particularly those low in fat, may be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases.

World Health Organization (WHO) recommends consuming 250 ml of milk per person per day. According to the Household Income and Expenditure Survey-2022, per capita daily milk and milk product consumption in Bangladesh is 34.1 g which is significantly low. The root causes of low consumption of safe and diversified dairy products such as yogurt or local cheese are lack of awareness of the benefits of dairy, mistrust of livestock products due to adulteration, poor intrahousehold allocation of food, and lack of access to affordable dairy products.

According to the Department of Livestock Services (DLS), the growth in production in the last ten years has been linear and amounted to 130.74 lakh metric tons in 2021-22 fiscal but the demand was 156.68 lakh metric tons.

In Bangladesh, most of the produced milk comes from marginal farmers who rear low-yielding local breeds, often leading to inadequate milk supply and slowing growth in the dairy sector. At present, only 40% of the cattle in the country are crossbred, leaving an untapped potential in accelerating milk production, and meeting the national demand for milk faster (report-2019; FAO, UNIDO).

Bangladesh has a warm and humid climate, which can pose challenges for dairy production and storage. Maintaining the quality and freshness of milk can be more difficult in such conditions. Additionally, the country faces limitations in terms of land availability and resources for large-scale livestock farming.

Public and private sector initiatives can play a role in increasing milk production and consumption through greater investment. It was observed that both formal and informal value chains coexist where milk collectors and chilling centres have a lead role. The milk supply chain mostly depends on smallholder milk production and inclusive market development. Behavioural change communication is also vital to build awareness of milk consumption.

The Feed the Future Bangladesh Livestock and Nutrition Activity, which is supported by USAID and implemented by ACDI/VOCA, has been working with public and private sector partners to increase milk consumption through increased productivity, access, and social behavioural change.

Last year, in collaboration with the Department of Livestock Services, the Activity provided training to 233,882 livestock farmers on animal health management, farm management, feeding practice, fodder production, hygiene and nutrition for increasing livestock productivity and nutrition awareness. In addition, 1,647 animal health and household nutrition campaigns were conducted, 175,731 livestock animals were vaccinated to increase productivity and messages on the importance of milk and product consumption were disseminated to increase awareness.

BRAC Dairy Limited, Akij Dairy Limited and PRAN Dairy Limited have taken initiatives for enhancing milk production and procurement from farmers, they are fortifying the formal market channel and fostering a more inclusive village-level milk collection system. They launched various dairy product lines and undertook myriad branding and market expansion activities to reach last-mile consumers.

Also, the Activity onboarded 49 Dairy MSMEs and Market Management Committee (MMC) to increase access to dairy products. MSMEs are vital to play an important role to increase the dairy product in rural markets. The Activity provided hands-on training to MSMEs on diversified dairy product processing (Mozzarella Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Ghee, Butter, Yogurt & fermented dairy drink varieties). Also, supported them in local and border market linkage as well as financial access.

The project is leveraging public and private sector resources to disseminate messages on the health importance of milk consumption. Private companies are educating consumers through their marketing strategy on the importance of safe milk consumption. Through a partnership with the Bangladesh National Nutrition Council (BNNC), a large network of community health workers and religious leaders disseminate nutrition and hygiene messages to promote milk consumption. Mass awareness is also generated through community engagement events such as campaigns, day observation, and social media and cable TV networks.

Dr. Md Sahabuddin, District Livestock Officer of Cox’s Bazar, said: “To increase milk consumption, it is necessary to increase milk production, and market expansion as well as the behavioural change towards milk consumption. So, we need to work on all those issues simultaneously. Here we may mention that Feed the Future Bangladesh Livestock and Nutrition Activity is working on all the mentioned aspects and bringing good results among the beneficiaries regarding milk consumption.”

Twelve cattle-owing farmer Md. Monnasef Howlader Firoz, Rupatoli, Barishal said ‘I learned a lot from the project and got technical assistance from the project in feed management, fodder production and animal health management. I am very happy about the 45% increase in milk production. I have started the diversified dairy product processing, but more support is required for making the market for smallholder dairy processors like me’.

Abu Zahid, Deputy Manager of PRAN Dairy Limited, said according to recent data about 97% of milk is produced in rural areas. Inclusive milk collection from farmers by dairy companies will create an opportunity for economic benefits of supporting local dairy farmers and could also contribute to increased consumption.

In Bangladesh, collaborative efforts between the government, local entrepreneurs, and livestock officers have accelerated progress on both milk production and consumption. Continued support and market development are necessary to sustain the growth of smallholder dairy processors and benefit local farmers. Inclusive milk collection from rural areas can create economic opportunities and further boost consumption among urban and rural Bangladeshis.

Source : Daily Observer Bangladesh June 07th 2023 by Fazlul Islam

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