The first wave of Covid-19 pandemic has ended in some countries and the second wave is coming. The fear and panic that was first felt among the public after the outbreak of the coronavirus is no longer the case. In a country like Bangladesh, people cannot stay at home. This pandemic is pointing out where we are deficient.
Unlike manufacturing industry, agricultural production cannot be stopped abruptly. Continued production, and decline in demand in the market led to the producers facing financial losses.
According to the Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute (BLRI), only seven percent of the milk produced in the country comes to the market through various companies. The rest of the milk is sold in various sweet shops, bakeries, hotels, homes etc.
As a result of the continued shutdown, the milk sale to the sweet shops, restaurants and homes was stopped, resulting in income loss of milk sellers. As a result, the price of milk came down drastically.
The milk sellers could not meet the demand of their families, and struggled to buy cattle feed. Although some dairy companies provided cow feed at low prices, it did not reach everyone. Only those who were able to sell their milk to these companies got this benefit.
For many years, the main export product of Bangladesh has been ready-made garments. Due to the pandemic the industry saw cancellation of orders. If Bangladesh could diversify export products, whenever the income from one sector unexpectedly stopped coming, it would be possible to make up for most of the losses by other sectors.
In 2019, the global dairy market was valued at $673.8 billion and was projected to grow to $1032.7 billion by 2024. New Zealand is the world's largest exporter of dairy products. In fiscal year 2018, the value of dairy exports from New Zealand was 18.11 billion New Zealand dollars.
The dairy industry could also be a potential sector in Bangladesh.
Milk processing facilities in the country is quite inadequate. As a result, farmers are often forced to sell milk at lower prices. Again, powdered milk is not produced in the country, it is imported. Farmers will be encouraged to raise more cows if powder milk factories are set up in milk producing areas of the country to reduce import dependence, and save foreign exchange in the process.
Also, when there was a lot of unsold milk during the shutdown, farmers would not have to face losses if they had the knowledge on how to make cheese.
The dairy industry can be a good way to meet Bangladesh's own needs as well as diversify export earnings.
The solutions to the problems in the context of Bangladesh that could play a role in the development of the dairy industry are as follows:
Firstly, cattle breed development. Bangladesh's own breeds of cows produce about 2-5 litres of milk daily, which is not enough to meet the target. Therefore, it is necessary to make arrangements to spread cow breeds of different advanced varieties to the farmers.
Secondly, the price of cow feed in Bangladesh should be reduced. Government needs to make necessary arrangements to import cow feed at low cost from available import sources. Measures should also be taken to prevent antibiotics from entering the cow's body with the food.
Thirdly, the amount of government employed veterinary services in Bangladesh is very inadequate. For every two thousand cows, goats and sheep there is only one service provider. Appropriate steps should be taken to increase veterinary doctors and ensure availability of veterinary services.
Fourthly, due to the hot summer in Bangladesh, a lot of milk is wasted in the heat. That is why adequate milk cooling system needs to be developed across the country and the amount of bacteria in the milk should be controlled according to the hygiene standards.
Fifthly, In order to capture the external market, we have to diversify our dairy products. Cheese-making has not yet become very popular in this country. But there is enough demand for cheese in the country, as well as abroad. That is why it is necessary to increase the production of cheese through mass training in cheese production of farmers and entrepreneurs.
To achieve sustainable development, the level of investment in dairy industry from both public and private sectors needs to be increased. In order to develop the dairy industry and to capture the export market, machinery needs to be modernised. To make germ-free, healthy dairy products that is accessible to all at reasonable prices, well-planned investment is a must.
Md Abdul Mahsin Tusher is an undergraduate student of the Department of Economics at Noakhali Science and Technology University (NSTU)