SHAMIM RIZVI, Bureau Chief, Islamabad
Aug 27 - Sep 02, 2007

Federal Minister for Food, Agriculture and Livestock, while inaugurating a Workshop on "Strengthening of Livestock Sector in Pakistan" in Islamabad last week disclosed that Government has launched a new Livestock Development Policy to increase livestock production in the country as a part of its programme to alleviate poverty and unemployment especially in rural areas. The increased production in milk and meat would have a stabilizing effect on the prices of these two major food items.

The two day workshop was organized by P.M. Secretariat under "Prime Minister Special Initiatives for Livestock Development". The purpose of the workshop was to review main issue confronting livestock sector and develop consensus on a strategy for progress in this sector in Pakistan, develop understanding of project goals and objectives with key stakeholders.

The Livestock Minister said the livestock sector will be led by private sector with public sector providing enabling environment. Two autonomous private sectors led corporate bodies; Livestock and Dairy Development Board and Pakistan Dairy Development Company have been established to spearhead the development efforts in the sector. Other projects in this sector include strengthening of Livestock sector, services project and agribusiness development project, etc., he adding that the Provincial governments and international donors are also focusing on this sector. This project 'Prime Minister's special initiative for Livestock' is another effort in this regard with special emphasis on developing partnership with the private sector for provision of livestock services on sustainable basis.

The minister informed livestock plays an important role in the economy of the country and is pivotal in the rural socio-economic system. Beside its significant contribution in the national GDP and agriculture value added, it is a source of livelihood of more than 6.5 million families in the rural areas, mostly small and landless farmers. It also contributes significantly to the foreign exchange earning of the country.

The present role of the livestock sector in the economy of Pakistan reflects to a large extent the historic role of livestock and its product in the rural economy. The primary purpose of livestock keeping has been, and largely still is, to meet from the farms' own resources some of the basic dietary and work performance requirements with the generation of cash income as a secondary objective, he said.

Immediately, after the launch of the Policy the Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) signed an agreement with Ministry of Industries and Nestle Pakistan to provide soft loans of Rs. 5 billion to over 50 thousand farmers to raise 10,000 animals yearly in a period of next 5 years to increase milk and meat production in the country.

Shahab Khawaja, Secretary, Ministry of industries, and Roland Decorvet, Managing Director of Nestle, signed the agreement. The life of the project is five years, from 2007 to 2011, while Nestle will identify and recommend the borrowers to the concerned ZTBL branch. The loans would be provided at a mark-up rate of 9 percent, with 1 percent rebate for timely repayment. Also, Nestle will carry out monitoring of the loans to update the bank branch periodically.

The ZTBL Chief said that maximum loan limit is Rs one million per borrower. The loan-able items will include dairy sheds, local buffaloes and imported cows. He said that annual milk production in country is over 32 billion liters, which is below the demand of the country. He said that ZTBL has so far provided loans of Rs 24 billion for establishing over half a million dairy farms, including 49 big farms and 13 milk processing units.

He said that ZTBL is even ready to provide sustainable rural financing services, particularly to small farmers. He said that the overall loan disbursements by ZTBL to agriculture sector are Rs 458 billion, including Rs 32 billion loans for small dairy farms. On the other hand, the bank has released Rs 697 million to UHT milk plants and Rs 176 million as loans to big dairy farms in the country. Total loan disbursements by ZTBL to agricultural services during 2005-06 were Rs. 47.6 billion, while in 2006-07, these increased to Rs. 56.5 billion.

Shahab said that in international market, milk prices had risen, that was why Pakistan, in spite of being fifth largest milk producing country, was facing price hike of milk in domestic market. He said that 'White Revolution Scheme' would prove to be the best in order to increase milk production across the country. "We should seriously take notice of the fact what progress our livestock sector has made in the past 60 years. This is the sector which has always been ignored by the governments". The livestock census of 2006 shows that in 1996, a cow on average was giving 6 liters milk per day. Same is the case with buffaloes. A buffalo in 1996 was giving 7.7 liters per day whereas in 2006 it was 7.9 liters per day. It is noteworthy that imported cows are giving 20-30 liters milk per day.

Nestle Chief Ronald Decorvet explained that development of rural economy depends upon livestock alongwith wheat, cotton and sugarcane. 'Nestle is the largest food company in the world, in which 2600 employees are working. We have 1600 chilling stations in the country and 40,000 farmers bring milk to Nestle every day', he said and added that Nestle was starting a new meager project of establishing the world's largest milk factory in Multan with the investment of Rs. 4 billion. Nestle is spending $ 1.8 million in agri-services across the country. He told the meeting that there were 80 veterinary doctors serving in different rural areas by Nestle.

The Punjab Livestock and Dairy Development Department has drawn a plan to assist livestock farmers of Cholistan to improve milk and meat production. The proposed project has been named 'Cholistan Livestock Development Project', and would be spread over a period of five years costing Rs. 800 million. The project is likely to start by the end of this year and will conclude in 2001-12.

The project is part of the Punjab government's vision 2020 for promoting increase in livestock production. Under this project, farmers rearing herds of Cholistani cows, a bread of Sahiwal cows which produces above normal quantities of milk and meat, will be provided facilities like better pedigree improvement, balanced feed and disease protection through a comprehensive vaccination and veterinary plan. Cholistan cow is famous for resisting harsh climatic conditions of Cholistan. Each Cholistani cow on an average is capable of producing 1,000 liters of milk per annum and if the Punjab Livestock and Dairy Development's plans are implemented, this average can be enhanced up to 1,700-1,800 liters per annum.

The Livestock and Fisheries Department of Sindh and the Pakistan Dairy Development Company (PDDC) have signed a memorandum of understanding, aimed at cooperating in the development of dairy sector in an effective and efficient manner. The Sindh government intends to assist in the development of 23 new milk colonies across the province, and the PDDC will introduce modern farm management practices in order to boost productivity of the farmers in these colonies. They also plan to facilitate improved linkages between many of these colonies and markets of Sindh. The Sindh government also wants to establish a farm for rehabilitating animals once they have finished milking for the season. Too many of these animals are lost to the dairy sector owing to lack facilities to feed and care for these 'dry' animals.

Livestock is an important sector of the country's agriculture. The livestock sub-sector plays a dominant role in the development of agriculture by providing major food items (milks, meat and egg) and other products including power and manure. Agriculture sector shares about 23 percent of the GDP, while 49 percent of its allocation for the agriculture sector including livestock in the total budget remains inadequate.

The dairy industry of the country continues to face challenges and ambiguity. With every passing day, dairy products are becoming costlier as livestock farmers has not systematically grown with the increasing population and do not match with the rapid urbanization. In spite of a large livestock population, the supply of animal products like milk and meat are very low as compared to advanced countries. This deficiency is the result of malnutrition, high infant mortality, and prevalence of diseases and low life expectancy of cattle.

The main reason for low productivity of the livestock is also due to neglect and poor management of this sector. Despite good genetic potential among animals, low production is due to, among others, lack of proper marketing of livestock products. Most of country's farming community is unaware of modern techniques in dairy farming. They usually lack information about cattle management and their feed. The idea of balanced diet and intercropping to grow forage crops with main crops is completely missing. The little or no collaboration of researchers and those dealing with agricultural extension services also contribute to low production.

Despite all that Pakistan is still the 5th largest milk producing country in the world, which should be enough to meet the requirement, still the country is importing dry milk powder. The main reason is that a proper infrastructure of collecting of milk from farmers living in remote areas is non-existent. As a result more than 50 percent of milk produced is used perforce as there is no buyer available. According to an estimate about 5 percent of the milk produced in the country is properly processed. Policy makers should keep in mind that the key to the development of dairy industry is the timely collection and procurement of milk from farmers living in remote areas and arrange its processing to enhance its shelf life. If this could be done the prospective of growth in this sector are endless. Pakistan can become a processed and dry milk exporting country.