by Uditha Kumarasinghe (dailynews.lk/2004/12/03/new24.html)
The Government through the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry will launch a national level program to establish 1000 “Dairy Farmer Villages” countrywide to empower the large number of dairy farmers socio-economically and increase the local dairy production.
At the initial stage, the Ministry will set up 50 dairy farmer villages in several districts including Badulla, Kandy, Matale, Kurunegala, Nuwara Eliya, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Ampara, Jaffna, Trincomalee and Puttalam districts before the end of this year, Agriculture and Livestock Minister Anura Kumara Dissanayake told a media briefing yesterday. He said the Ministry has allocated of Rs. 20 million for this year to establish the 50 dairy farmer villages countrywide. The Ministry will also spend nearly Rs. 200 million to popularise fresh milk consumption among the people next year.
On Minister Dissanayake’s invitation, Finance and Planning Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama will ceremonially launch the first dairy farmer village to be established under this national project at Dikpitiya, Welimada in the Badulla district on December 5. The ceremony in connection to this event will be held at the Dikpitiya Vidyalaya on December 5 at 10 am.
The Minister said: “Rs. 11 billion is spent annually to import milk powder. At present only six per cent of the country’s milk production is made locally. Due to lack of attention focused, the country’s dairy production is at a very low ebb.” Therefore the Ministry through this novel concept intends to produce 50 percent of the country’s dairy requirement locally within the next four years. However, we consider this a challenge to achieve our target. In order to successfully face this challenge, the Ministry has already formulated a systematic plan. Dissanayake said a large amount of fresh milk collected are not 100 percent pure and did not meet with the quality. As a result, large amounts of such fresh milk are utilised in the production of milk powder.
The Ministry through the establishment of these dairy farmer villages will educate dairy farmers on the ways and means of collecting and the sale of fresh milk they collect in a more systematic manner. As one of the key objectives, dairy farmer villages will properly organise dairy farmers as small groups to promote the local dairy industry by uplifting their socio-economic conditions. The Ministry will assist by providing cattle sheds, bio gas units and containers which will assist the dairy farmers to collect fresh milk in a more hygienic manner, he said.
The dearth of hybrid cattle varieties is one of the key obstacles to develop the dairy industry. There are less than 6000 hybrid cattle varieties in 29 farms under the Ministry purview. The Ministry hopes to increase this number upto 10,000 during the next year. The Ministry’s intention is to provide 500 hybrid cattle varieties to dairy farmers once in three months, he said. The Ministry has also reserved Rs. 40 million to upgrade facilities of the Veterinary Research Institute to create vaccines needed to develop the hybrid cattle varieties, he said.
In 1978, this country produced 80% of the milk required for consumption on the island; today the number is 20%, due to the importation of cheap powdered milk products, which are advertised heavily. One ad shows a child solving puzzles with the aid of magical powders contained in a glass of imported milk. Agriculture and Livestock Minister S. B. Dissanayake is determined to rebuild the Sri Lankan dairy industry by imposing a stiff tax on the imports and using the funds to rebuild the local dairy industry. “The Milk Mafia is tough,” he says, “But I will break this monopoly by giving more pure milk.” His long-range plan calls for 1000 “Dairy Farmer Villages” to provide “fresh milk” for local people. Unfortunately, the plan calls for hybrid cattle, partial confinement and pasteurization plants when a smaller investment in milking machines and refrigeration resources is all that is required to provide a healthful product to the local populace. Still, the government has realized that a highly centralized milk industry is bad news for local economies and that local production will “uplift” local socioeconomic conditions. (dailymirror.lk/2003/08/21/opinion/1.html)