The dairy industry has flourished in Bangladesh over the last twenty years. During this time, both production and consumption have increased.
The industry has kept growing and it still has strong growth prospects.
But, there are some problems too, which mainly lie with pastures and cattle food. If these two problems are solved, the dairy industry will be developed to its potential and turn into a strong tool to alleviate poverty on the one hand, and meet nutritional needs on the other.
The journey of Aarong Dairy also commenced from a poverty alleviation project. From its responsibility towards society Brac in 1988 thought that if hunger and poverty were to be eradicated in villages, people's incomes would have to be increased.
We got the idea of farming while looking for ways to increase the income of the rural poor.
At that time, a village farmer could get one or one-and-a-half litres of milk from a cow a day.
Seeing this, we thought we must come up with a formula to increase the amount of milk in cows from 1.5 litres to 15 litres. For this, we thought about inventing hybrid cows.
At that time, the Department of Livestock used to sell frozen semen. We then went in partnership with them and started artificial insemination to improve the cattle breeds of farmers.
In 1988 Brac entered into an agreement with the DLS and started artificial insemination. After the start of Brac's activities, the amount of milk received by the farmers increased manifold. But, after we gave this assistance to a large number of farmers, a big problem came in front of us.
The farmers to whom we gave improved breeds of cows were not getting fair prices for their produced milk, even though the amount production increased.
Due to high production, milk supplies surpassed the household demand in local areas. Sweetmeat shops were also offering lower prices in the wake of increased supplies. As a result, our initiative to eradicate poverty was facing a setback.
Against such a backdrop, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed said, "Let us undertake an initiative to collect milk from the harmers at a fair price. After collection, we will process the milk and sell it in stores. As a result, on the one hand, consumers will get good-quality milk and on the other hand, farmers will be freed from poverty."
On this advice of Abed Sir, we launched Aarong Dairy in 1998.
In the same year, we set up a factory in Gazipur. Then, we started a feeding system after bringing all those farmers together and started collecting milk. After that, we started selling milk under our own management.
In this journey, 28,000 farms have now been connected with Brac's Aarong.
We provide all the solutions to the farmers – including cow rearing, breed development, treatment, and milk collection. As a result, farmers are getting a fair price for milk along with the increase in production.
At present, we are collecting 1.40 lakh litres of milk per day. We have 139 chilling centres for 28,000 registered farmers. Of these, 107 are mother plants and the rest are solar chilling centres.
The capacity of each of our chilling centres is 2,000-5,000 litres. We can collect more than 200 litres of milk daily in each of these chilling centres.
We are currently manufacturing and marketing more than 20 dairy items. In addition to milk, yogurt, ghee and buttermilk, there are many items made with cheese. There are several canned products.
We have a wide range of varieties and we are continuously bringing new varieties.
There are 32 selling centres to sell our dairy products. Moreover, we have set up over 30 refrigerators in super shops.
There are about 2,000 employees to run these activities of Brac. We also have a huge supply chain to supply our milk to 60,000 stores. Apart from alleviating rural poverty, direct and indirect employment for about 7,000 people has also been created by Aarong through this initiative.
Mohammad Anisur Rahman is the director of Aarong Dairy.
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