Jul 9, 2011

Great potential for dairy farming sector in Myanmar

Dairy farming sector in Myanmar remains seriously underdeveloped, a Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department (LBVD) official said last week.

Dr Aung Gyi, the department’s deputy director general, said there is great potential to develop the industry, with people here consuming less dairy products per capita than counterparts in neighbouring countries.

“Our country produces 981 million viss [1 viss is 1.6 kilograms or 3.6 pounds] of milk a year but it is not sufficient for local consumption and we still need to import milk and dairy products,” he said.

He added that milk and dairy imports cost the nation about US$50 million a year.

He said Myanmar has about 500,000 Friesian cows, the most popular breed of dairy cow. However, the country does not have any commercial-scale dairy cow breeding operations and a lack of planning, technology and financing handicap the industry.

He added that there are only six farms with more than 300 cattle in Yangon Region; the majority of diary cow farms have 20 or less cattle.

Dr Aung Gyi said the country needs to set up larger farms to develop the industry and change some of its poor practices, particularly regarding artificial insemination.

“Dairy farmers here inseminate cows with bulls rather than artificial insemination because it’s cheaper. Artificial insemination costs about K5000 a time and sometimes takes three or four attempts to achieve success,” said U Tin Win, owner of Ngwesin Pearl dairy farm in Yangon.

However, while avoiding artificial insemination saves money, it dilutes the breed and eventually lowers quality.

U Tin Win said one factor holding the industry back is that there is no culture of drinking milk here, with little market demand as a result.

“It’s important that dairy farmers and milk sellers cooperate to ensure that milk isn’t watered down before it reaches consumers, who can then be confident in what they’re buying,” he said.

Dr Khin Swe Win, an LBVD assistant director, said that milk is commonly watered down by 50 percent before it reaches consumers.

Dr Aung Gyi said dairy farmers should register their animals with the department to assist the development of the sector.

“The department is doing what it can to develop livestock breeding but breeders also need to register their animals with us so that we can better assess the situation and plan for the future,” Dr Aung Gyi said.

“From 2004 to 2006, we ran a project with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] to promote dairy farming here. During that program we travelled to Thailand for a training session, during which we were asked to say how many of the nation’s Friesian cows were 75pc pure bred, 50pc or 25pc as well as their numbers and age groups.

“We were unable to answer the questions because we didn’t have any data or proper statistics,” Dr Aung Gyi said.

He said that while people here don’t drink a great deal of fresh milk, they consume a lot of condensed milk with tea or coffee. He said that Myanmar consumes about 139,500 viss of condensed milk a day, much of which must be imported.

“An average Myanmar consumes 26.3 kilograms of milk and dairy products a year, while Thais consumes about 50kg and Europeans consume more than 200kg.

“We need to encourage people to drink more fresh milk because it’s very good for your diet and calcium requirements,” Dr Aung Gyi said.

Meanwhile, dairy farmers said they need the government’s help to make their industry more profitable.

“At the moment, the milk price in Mandalay is low and actually falling. But the price is better in Yangon because there are more middle-class people there, who drink more milk. Ideally we’d like to move our cattle from Mandalay to Yangon to provide more milk there,” U Tin Win of Ngwesin Pearl said.

“But it’s really difficult to transfer cows from Mandalay to Yangon and we must have a lot of documentation to do so,” he said.

“Dairy cows cannot be used as draft animals and only produce dairy products. We should be able to transfer dairy cows easily,” U Tin Win said.

Source: Myanmar Times