Food security and dairy products


November 25, 2014 – S M Hali  –

According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), hunger in Pakistan is at emergency levels after years of conflict and natural calamities. Fifteen percent of children are severely malnourished and some 40 percent suffer from stunted growth, which is an emergency situation both with respect to food security as well as malnutrition. An important basis for the persistent food insecurity in Pakistan is the low productivity of crops and livestock as compared to that in many developed countries. Unfortunately, instead of addressing the issue by investing in agriculture research, sheer neglect has further deteriorated the situation.

Gleaning information from international organisations like the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and WFP to address the issue of malnutrition, it is determined that livestock and the dairy sector can contribute towards resolving the problem since the livestock sector plays a pivotal role in the national economy of Pakistan and, according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2012-2013, its contribution to the GDP is 11.9 percent. Additionally, according to the International Farm Comparison Network (IFCN) Dairy Map/Report 2012, Pakistan is the third largest milk producing country in the world with more than 95 percent of the milk coming from cows and buffaloes. Interestingly though, despite the extent of cattle ownership and milk production, the production does not fulfil national demand and Pakistan is constrained to import milk. In order to meet the demand for dairy products, the sector needs to access the most advanced technical expertise, products and cattle species available.

Till recently, the external source was blocked since, in June 2001, Pakistan had imposed a ban on the import of livestock from BSE (mad cow disease) infected countries. Fortunately, now the ministry of commerce has permitted the import of livestock from the countries that have been declared as having “negligible risk” by the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) and shall be allowed if the animals are only from such herds where no incidence of BSE has been reported for the last 11 years. This fact shall be certified by the veterinary authority of the exporting country concerned.

Since Pakistan has been looking for a reliable, one-stop solution provider for the dairy industry in Pakistan, it may be prudent to look at Dutch cattle, which have high international repute. The Netherlands is home to the internationally renowned Holstein Friesian breed of cows, which are reputed to be the world’s highest production dairy animals. Historically, Dutch breeders bred and oversaw the development of the breed with the goal of obtaining animals that could best use grass, nature’s most abundant resource. Over the centuries, the result was a high-producing, black-and-white dairy cow. The Dutch Holstein Friesian cows are capable of producing at least 30,000 kg of milk in a lifetime, a yield that is unmatched worldwide. To support the high quality bovine breed, the Netherlands provides their cattle the best feed, medicine and management skills to fulfil the complete genetic potential of these cows.

If Pakistan has to meet the challenge of food security and enhance the solution through the dairy sector as well as boost the opportunity of raising the productivity potential of dairy farming in Pakistan, it ought to partner with the Dutch. There are a number of lessons the Pakistani dairy sector can learn from the experience of The Netherlands. The growing demands of nutrition for Pakistan’s next generation can be dealt with by seeking excellence in dairy farming, aiming for high-intensity, high-sustainability agribusiness by modernising and expanding its agricultural sector.

This inference can be given credence through some robust statistics pertaining to the Dutch dairy sector. The Netherlands currently has 18,600 dairy farms comprising 1,553,000 dairy cows with a total milk quantum of 11.90 million tonnes. The average total life span of Dutch dairy cows is five years and 10 months, which is the highest in the world while Dutch cows have a productive life span of 1,284 (milking) days. The average lifetime production of Dutch dairy cows is 30,999 kg of milk per year with 2,443 kg fat and protein, which is also the highest in the world, and Dutch cows have the highest longevity in comparison to all other countries. To meet disease-free conditions, it is pertinent to note that the Dutch dairy sector is accredited for being free from Brucellosis and Tuberculosis as well as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and BSE.

For prospective Pakistani dairy animal importers, it may be heartening to note that in 2013-2014, 35,000 dairy cows were exported from The Netherlands to destinations worldwide. The Holstein-Friesian cow produces well in any climate, making it a cost-effective and highly profitable livestock in farms around the world.

Pakistan’s ministry of national food security and research has its work cut out to eradicate malnutrition and hunger. Focusing on dairy products can certainly facilitate a resolution of the problem.(Daily Times)

The writer is a former group captain of PAF, who also served as air and naval attaché at Riyadh. Currently, he is a columnist, analyst and a television show host

Food Crisis, Agriculture, Food Crisis in Pakistan, Food, Dairy

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