MYANMAR’S dairy industry will remain uncompetitive if the nation fails to address low productivity of raw milk driven by poor genetics and low production technology, said Dumrong Leenanuruksa, a former vice president of Maejo University in Chiang Mai who carried out comprehensive research on the competitiveness of Greater Mekong Subregion’s dairy industry.
“Poor conditions of infrastructure and lack of external assistance from developed countries has aggravated the ability of the country to compete. The amount of raw milk produced is still too low. The cost of raw milk should be competitive. You need a higher level of production to become competitive in this business,” he said in an interview.
Dumrong said that the government must set short- and long-term strategies for the improvement of Myanmar milk production. Currently, the nation can produce only half of its domestic consumption while it imports a large amount of canned condensed milk from other countries, mostly from Thailand.
According to Dumrong, imported products from Thailand pose a challenge to Myanmar dairy businesses and increasing productivity is already a threat to food security in the country’s milk production. He urged the government to focus on improving husbandry practices of small dairy farmers so that the whole dairy value chain will grow further.
“The growth of Myanmar’s dairy food and drink business is just at the infant stage. There is heaps of potential for growth, but you need more and more raw milk,” he said.
Dumrong said that Myanmar dairies needed a lot of training to increase productivity. He added that inefficiency of milk production on at the small-farm level had reflected low capacity of the concerned government body, the Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department.
“Myanmar universities do not provide trained animal science or animal husbandry graduates to supply skilled technicians for the whole livestock industry. Now it is time to conduct courses on dairy cattle feeding and management, pasture science and cattle feed. Dairy farming is the most complicated system when compared to other livestock and poultry production systems. It also needs educating the farmers,” he said.
“Myanmar dairy production system was lagging behind Thailand by 30 to 40 years. Since raw milk production is the upstream process of the dairy value chain, you really need a bold policy and commitment from the government to put the budget and implementation plans to improve the breeding and milking value of the cattle, training the farmers and so on.
“The aim is to increase efficiency of production, then the outcome will lead to huge increases in milk yield per cow and increasing rates per year.”
Since Myanmar opened up its economy under the previous Thein Sein administration, consumption of milk including locally produced pasteurised milk and UHT milk or sterilised milk mostly imported from Thailand has largely increased. Most milk production went to evaporated milk factories, local tea shops and selling in the markets. Very little raw milk is used for the production of pasteurised milk and yoghurt.
“Big players in Thailand dairy processing and marketing such as Dutch Mill and CP have already entered Myanmar. It is the sign of big potential in the demand for raw milk. Once the demand increases, the purchasing price of raw milk will be increased. This will be a big incentive for the farmers to improve their production,” he said. Dumrong said that the government must put emphasis on changing of the production level of dairy farmers from the subsistent or semi-subsistent level to a commercial production level.
The model proved successful in Thailand by establishing local dairy cooperatives, providing low-interest loan to farmers.