GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 8 May) – The Department of Agriculture (DA) is developing a new road map for the country’s dairy industry in a bid to further improve its production and market competitiveness.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said the plan will mainly focus on immediate interventions to address industry gaps in the wake of the integration by next year of the economies of the 10 member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
He said they are currently conducting a series of nationwide consultations in connection with the formulation of the roadmap, which will center on the expansion and strengthening of cooperatives and other private entities engaged in dairy production and processing.
“This road map or plan will be based mainly on the inputs of our dairy farmers, cooperatives and other industry players,” he said at the opening of the 17th National Dairy Congress and Expo here on Wednesday afternoon.
Alcala said the plan will serve as guide for the implementation of the national government or DA’s support programs for the industry through the National Dairy Authority (NDA).
He said these support initiatives would include the integration of more local dairy farmers and producers into cooperatives or associations to promote economies of scale for the sector.
Integrated farmers and producers may avail of a range of assistance and grants from the NDA, among them the establishment of dairy processing plants and other related facilities, he said.
In terms of the ASEAN economic integration starting next year, Alcala acknowledged the dairy industry is not in the position yet to compete in terms of production.
He said Thailand currently leads the ASEAN in terms of dairy production, specifically of milk and milk products.
The country imports the bulk of its dairy requirements from New Zealand and other dairy-producing countries.
“In the short term, I don’t see much opportunity for us in terms of dairy when the ASEAN economic integration sets in because our base production is too low,” Alcala said.
On a long term basis, he said the country has a chance to compete with Thailand and even New Zealand as both were not yet considered self-sufficient in terms of dairy production.
“They’re around 40 percent sufficient based on their own requirements so they’re also facing some gaps,” he said.
In 2013, data released by the NDA showed that the country’s dairy production reached 19.45 million liters, increasing by a million liters when compared to 2012.
The country’s sufficiency level in terms of local dairy production was listed at a dismal one percent in the last six years.
The NDA report said the country imported a total of 1.945 billion liters of dairy products last year to cope with the projected requirements of 2.924 million kilograms, of which 1.851 billion kilograms are consumed locally.
Aside from the strengthening of the dairy cooperatives, Alcala said NDA is expanding this year its dispersal program for dairy cattle to help address the production gaps.
From the current inventory of 44,374 heads of dairy herd, NDA is targeting to increase such number to 55,000 by the end of the year.
Alcala said they will allocate additional budget next year for the agency’s buy-back program for dairy cattle.
Such move will discourage dairy farmers from slaughtering their herd for meat purposes and instead sell them to NDA, which will eventually distribute them to ready recipients of its dispersal program.