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Dairy industry calls for reality check and proper regulatory framework to be implemented

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Friday, 1 June 2018 00:00



  • Total national cow milk production rises from 
  • 196 m in 2010 to 327 m litres in 2017
  • 40% of the consumption met by local production
  • 15% VAT of technical services provided to  personnel in the industry must be reduced, say officials 
  • Land available for dairy farming is less than 5,000 km2
  • Gelatine and sugar in milk, main issues in purity and nutrition 

By Shannon Jayawardena

The dairy industry called for a reality check and a proper regulatory framework to be implemented recently as they believe that they are currently facing many challenges in productivity and quality.

The above was observed at a seminar organised by the All Island Dairy Association (AIDA) on improving the standards of the industry.

AIDA President Nishantha Jayasooriya said: “The quality of milk is actually at a very low level and as a result the industry loses a lot of milk. It’s also a challenge to take the middle level farmer and uplift the technology and education aspects to increase productivity. The producers are also facing this challenge equally, as quality of milk is a very important thing for them.”

He stressed on the fact that quality and quantity go hand in hand. Value addition is also facing a lot of issues as it is currently faced with the second highest per litre cost in the world. Value addition is constantly pressurised by the consumer as well. Constantly looking at markets, opening up markets and to give more for less are huge challenges. 

Maliban Milk Products Management Consultant Asoka Bandara stated: “The history of animal husbandry dates back to nearly 2,000 years ago. So we have a long history of dairy products and the milk consumption has increased with the opening of the economy.”

The total national cow milk production in 2010 was 196 million litres and quantity increased to 327 million litres in 2017 while buffalo milk increased to 68.8 million litres, out of which 40% of the consumption is met by local production. The average cost of milk production of a litre of milk is Rs. 34.69 and the average farm gate price is at Rs. 66.34. However it was brought to mind at the seminar that several dairy companies are running at a loss and are at the verge of shutting their businesses down which is a very serious issue. 

“You need to reduce the price. Selling price has not changed for the last three years because it is a government jurisdiction. Yet cost has gone up by Rs. 84 per kilo, so look at the economic sense of it. One major issue today when it comes to milk is the price control. If the price goes up we cannot control cost,” emphasised Bandara. 

Some of the strategic considerations requested by the dairy industry are the gelatine issue and the sugar addition. Gelatine is needed for cow milk based curd and it is a growing concern of the general public as pure curd does not include gelatine. Bandara also stressed on the fact that the moment you reduce sucrose people don’t drink it, however the addition of sugar destroys the purity of the milk argued officials from the industry. 

He also highlighted the fact that there are still some dairy equipment under VAT and duty that need to be talked and agreed upon. Technical services provided to the farmers, milk collectors and processors include 15% VAT which must be either reduced or eliminated. This will be very useful to the industry, added Bandara. 

Past, present and future of the dairy industry

AIDA Vice President and Hayleys Agro Farms Director Susantha Mallawa Arachchi noted: “In the past, having a cow at home showed one’s living standards and the dairy industry is very dynamic. Though animal husbandry plays an important role in the rural economy, the land availability for dairy farming is less than 5,000 km2 and the per capita consumption of milk averages to a total of 36 litres of milk.

He also stressed on the fact that in Sri Lanka many farmers depend on animal husbandry for their livelihood but not as a primary source of income whereby they only contribute 1.2% to the country’s GDP. Sri Lanka is currently ranked 4th among the global milk powder importers. 

Arachchi emphasised on the fact that the dairy industry is a vast scope and provides many opportunities for the local market. However the country’s perspective about farmers and the industry is very low. He stated that it is important to change the mind-set of the local community at the very beginning. 

Milk, energy and malnutrition 

Medical Research Institute Consultant Medical Nutritionist Dr. Renuka Jayatissa said: “We’ve had a very good improvement of malnutrition in the past but after the year 2000, we didn’t have much progress. With all the development and resources this is a major crisis. Babies are born at a very low weight because pregnant mothers are not nourished properly to deliver a normal weighed baby. We encourage people to drink at least one 200 ml glass of milk per day.”

Dr. Jayatissa also noted that a main cause of poor nutrition in the country is the consumption of sugary food which is mainly through the added sugar in milk. A 200 ml packet of kotmale milk contains 62.5 grams of sugar and a packet of Fonterra contains 65.8 grams. 

The AIDA also invited University of Colombo, Sri Lanka Faculty of Medicine Department of Allied Health Sciences Lecturer and Specialist in sports and exercise medicine Dr. Chaturanga Ranasinghe, Industrial Technology Institute Food Technology Section Senior Deputy Director Dr. Ilmy Hewajulige, Public Health Complex Nutrition Division Consultant Dr. H.V.B. Wijayatilake, Bandara, Jayatissa and Arachchi to a panel discussion to share their viewpoints and insights as to how to tackle these challenges and implement the proper regulations. The moderator for the panel was Cargills Product Research and Development manager Corporate Dr. Nelum Vithana. 

Dr. Ranasinghe said: “There is a scarcity of intake and expenditure on the other end. On a global perspective it’s a bigger problem that we have less physical activity, exercise and sport. In Sri Lanka the current trend is that most people are inactive and lots of the time children aren’t engaged in exercises as well.”

The prescribed time of activity for adults is 30 minutes and 60 minutes for children, which locals do not do. Colombo currently is rapidly industrialising, so the problem is that there will be less activity. Production and intake of milk is very important. The amount of energy intake through dairy must be balanced, he stressed.

Dr. Hewajulige noted: “We can do a lot of food production through milk. At the moment we have yogurts, curd and cottage cheese. There are a lot of new technologies and even whey protein is produced through dairy.”

Dr. added that there are many beneficial organisms in our milk as it is pure milk that could be used not only for dairy products but other products such as virgin oil manufacturing which is now being looked into. We must add value to the local milk she stated.

“Milk can provide essential nutrients to the people. Though this is an awesome food, the industry has added many unnecessary ingredients such as sugar and colouring to the milk. Keep the milk as it is, without destroying its good quality,” urged Dr. Wijayatilake.

Pix by Upul Abayasekara


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