Lahore – Declining farm productivity, the quality of data available, and widespread nutritional deficiencies are four key barriers to the development of the dairy sector in Pakistan.
The barriers were highlighted by a panel of experts on the occasion of World Milk Day, when LUMS announced the results of an extensive research on dairy industry in Pakistan.
Ahsan Hashmi from Tetra Pak was the moderator on the occasion, while panelists were: Dr Nasim Ahmad, UVAS; Sajjad Mughal, Development Advisor USAID Pakistan; Babur Sultan, PDA Chairman, and Yaqoob Qazi from King Edward Medical University.
Babur Sultan said the government needed to provide incentives like the Chinese did to both dairy farmers and the allied industry 10 years ago.
“They started developing livestock farms and gave a number of subsidies,” he said, and added, “At present, the dairy industry is zero-rated. Moving to exemption, as many news reports indicate the government is thinking of doing, means the packaged milk and other dairy products will become more expensive.”
“The government might end up collecting a little more revenue, but the increase in the prices of packaged milk will mean that people will shift to loose milk,” he said, and added, “That will increase the number of consumers of loose milk, which is an unregulated sector without any quality controls.
The PDA chairman said the government needed to implement School Milk Programme like China and Turkey did.
“This would also help in improving malnutrition statistics. The government also needs to introduce a law for minimum pasteurization so that the overall quality of milk gets better,” he underscored.
The panel also agreed that an authoritative study was needed to remove discrepancies between official figures on livestock population as well as demand and supply.
They opined such discrepancies lead to wrong calculations and thus affected the quality of policy planning.
Dr Nasim of UVAS said that 50 percent of livestock in Asia was undernourished. “If we want to enhance productivity, the animal feed has to take priority. Feed is a direct, short-term method of increasing productivity,” he said.
He added that need of the hour was to develop extension services for small farmers through apps or mobile. Sajjad Mughal, multi-sector development specialist, said the government needed to decide what its priority was.
He also highlighted the issue of malnutrition in cattle. “Their productivity also depends on adequate nutrition. To have 300 days of lactation, you have to feed them better and in order to do that, you need healthy animals,” he stressed.
Yaqoob Qazi said the disparity in figures existed in every field. He talked about the importance of milk and other dairy products in getting adequate nutrition.
“There is gross malnutrition in all segments of the society – not just the poor. The micro and macro nutrients are widespread,” he observed. He was of the view that dairy industry could play a role in providing remedies.
“Milk is an essential part of our diet. It is extremely important for bones, teeth, hair. If deprived of this nutrient, individual’s health suffers in lots of ways. If a pregnant woman is deficient, the child will be too. Provision of milk and milk products to everyone should be the government’s priority,” he asserted.
Source: The Nation