The dairy industry is an important sector in Bangladesh as milk is an essential food to meet nutritional needs. It can make a big contribution to eliminating the problems of unemployment and nutrition. It has reached the present stage due to the efforts of private-sector entrepreneurs.
However, the industry has not reached this position suddenly. We have been consuming natural milk for a long time. But it was in an unorganised way. We had two models here to meet the demand for milk. One is cow rearing and it involves those who sell some milk in the local market after meeting their demand. Another model is powdered milk, which is 100% import-dependent.
After the country's independence, the state-owned company Milk Vita started working on the first model. They started collecting milk and delivering it to people through processing. However, its main development took place after the 90s. At that time, private entrepreneurs entered this sector.
Pran Dairy has been involved in this sector since 2001. It currently processes 2.5 lakh litres of milk daily. The company has a contract with 12,000 farmers who rear cows. There are more than 50,000 cows under them. We have given them the opportunity to earn more by increasing the production capacity of cattle through semen change.
We supply milk in three formats. One is the UHT form in MBM format, which is the long-life format. Then there is pasteurised milk, which needs cold chain maintenance. The other is powder milk.
The speciality of Pran Dairy is that we are very careful about hygienic milk. Sourcing is important here. If you collect milk from a better place, that will ensure hygiene. We have created a dairy hub to get good quality milk. Here our supervisors and doctors are supervising cattle rearing and milk collection of farmers.
We are working to increase milk production through various assistance and training provided for farmers. Besides, we are providing low-interest loans for them from Sonali Bank, Karmasangsthan Bank, and IFIC Bank to expand their farms.
We have to start from the beginning to discuss the potential of the country's dairy industry. We are not a milk-drinking nation. We think milk is a baby food item. Due to this misconception, the development of our dairy industry has slowed down. But now with the increase in people's awareness and purchasing power, things have changed. People are also emphasising nutrition.
On the other hand, companies are also delivering milk to people in new forms. Manufacturers are producing low-fat milk for people with diabetes and full cream milk for babies. According to the World Health Organisation, the average daily milk requirement of an adult is 250ml but we can afford 125ml here. We have many options to develop this industry.
The government is giving low-interest loans for farm and dairy development in the country. There is also policy support in the agricultural sector. But now the big problem is not having enough pasture. Farmers are not getting cow feed. On the other hand, the price of ready-made feed is also increasing.
In addition to keeping prices affordable with special facilities in cattle feed production, vaccines for various diseases should be made easily available.
Another big problem we have is that the production capacity of cattle here is very low. Milk production has to be increased by hybridising cows through semen change. Farmers are not getting this as it is not available. It needs to be made available. The government will have to take initiative for semen change.
The government has to take special initiatives to develop the dairy industry in the country. Factory owners should be provided with the facility to import duty-free machinery. The government should provide tax relief for those who want to set up powdered milk factories and increase tariffs on imported powdered milk.
Kamruzzaman Kamal in the director at Pran-RFL Group