Average milk production decreased by around 31 percent – from 4.04 litres per day, per cow, to 2.78 litres – amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a study of the Feed the Future (FTF) Bangladesh Livestock Production for Improved Nutrition Activity project.
The project funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) published the study findings on Wednesday at a virtual roundtable organised jointly.
The study was conducted among 100 dairy and cattle farmers, and 90 entrepreneurs of eight districts from April 15 to May 15 this year. The districts are: Jashore, Khulna, Satkhira, Barishal, Rajbari, Faridpur, Jhenaidah and Cox's Bazar.
"All the farmers and entrepreneurs participating in the study were trained under the FTF project. Although the study was conducted in eight districts, it reflects the overall situation across the country," said Nurul Amin Siddiquee, chief of party of the project.
The entrepreneurs experienced a 42 percent drop in sales compared to their pre-novel coronavirus operations, the study said. They said their average expected survival period is 3.07 months if the situation continues.
"When Covid-19 broke out and a shutdown was imposed across the country, the sale of milk by farmers decreased. That is why they were compelled to give lower amounts of food to their cattle which led to decreased milk production," said Siddiquee.
"Now, production and sales have increased compared to the period of the shutdown that ended in May. However, the situation is not normal yet," he added.
The study said income of around 70 percent of households, of dairy and cattle farmers, has decreased since the beginning of the pandemic.
Additionally, 90 percent of households were worried about hunger and a lack of food compared to 10 percent in the pre-pandemic period. Moreover, 70 percent reported that their meal quality had decreased as their income was affected negatively.
Speakers at the programme discussed how the project is contributing to reducing the impact of Covid-19 among these farmers and entrepreneurs.
"To reduce the impact of the pandemic, the project has promoted alternative marketing strategies by linking online food delivery platforms to local dairy processors that will help reach more customers and minimise the negative economic impacts on their businesses," said Siddiquee.
With a share of 13.46 percent in agricultural GDP, livestock plays a crucial role in Bangladesh's agro economy.
The $16 billion milk and meat sector provides jobs for rural youths and women, and significantly contributes to nutrition. However, the pandemic continues to negatively impact both employment and nutrition.
The FTF project has been working to increase livestock productivity for improved nutrition and income generation of rural households since 2015.
It trains farmers, milk collectors, and processors in hygienic milk production, preservation and processing; while helping promote dairy products on the domestic market.
Over the past five years, the project trained 163,287 livestock farmers. Of them, 143,577 were women.
Among others, John Smith-Sreen, director of the office of economic growth at USAID Bangladesh, attended the roundtable.