Malaysia imports 95% of its milk needs but doesn’t develop local farmers for self sufficiency

In the July 2012 Dewan Negara session, I asked the Minister of Agriculture statistics on dairy cattle farmers and why is that Indian cattle farmers don’t receive any assistance from veterinary department.

The Ministry of Agriculture replied that they don’t have latest statistics on racial breakdown of cattle farmers but there are a total of 69524 registered with them. However the 2006 statistics shows that there were 34745 Malay, 4188 Indians, 1111 Chinese and 2664 other races in cattle rearing industry. Indian farmers are mostly in dairy cattle rearing. Of the 788 dairy cattle farmers registered 669 (84%) are Indians. He further added that under the agriculture national key economic area (NKEA), 13 entry point projects cluster dairy farming, 156 Indians (74%) out of 212 farmers were selected to cooperate with Anchor Company Allied dairy Sdn Bhd. The 212 selected farmers were given 1450 dairy cattle along with milking and storage equipments were distributed to farmers. Therefore it is not true that Indian cattle farmers do not get any assistance from veterinary department. Technical and extension services are given out by veterinary department to all dairy farmers regardless of race, religion and political divide.

Deliberation over the reply

These EPP 13 plans were initiated after the GE12 March 2008. Before 2008 no help was given to Indian cattle farmers. Veterinary doctors and officials are not liberal minded and inexperienced and not knowledgeable at all. Farmers are more knowledgeable than veterinary doctors.  Indians are very experienced and show a keen interest in dairy farming. But unfortunately the veterinary department does not know how to capitalize on their strength. Ministry of agriculture plans to invest RM32 million each year from 2011 and 2012 to develop commercial dairy clusters and more downstream activities under EPP 13 program of NKEA agriculture. But on the ground we cannot see any major difference in dairy farming. The assistance given now is not game changer but is of help to poor farmers. Since the introduction of EPP 13 program, veterinary department need a thorough revamp if government wants to bring economic transformation.

In 2007, self sufficiency rate for milk in Malaysia was a mere 5% (51.07 million liters). Malaysia was importing 95% (1.034 billion liters) of milk from foreign countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Holland and etc. Still, the industry was worth RM 69.25 million locally. If we produce 100% of the local demand, we could generate RM 1.477 billion for the country! On top of that, we will actually save RM 1.4 billion annually.

The biggest problem faced by Indian dairy farmers is non availability of land for cattle farming. Veterinary department never take the initiative to provide land for cattle farming. Development of dairy farming will save billions from importing dairy products. According to ministry statistics for the years 2007 to 2011, imports of milk and dairy products in Malaysia are as follows:

Year

Total Import (RM / billion)

2007

2.62

2008

2.68

2009

1.69

2010

2.03

2011

2.5

 

Imported products include dairy, cream, flour, fat and sweet filling. Local milk productions during this period are as follows:

 

Year

Productions (RM / million)

2007

79

2008

87

2009

118

2010

127

2011

134

 

But the Ministry does not have any long term vision to develop dairy farming. There is very little interaction between veterinary department officers and Indian cattle farmers. No new innovative concept of dairy farming introduced to Indian farmers. Many cattle farmers work in estate to rear cows due to lack of land. Some estates owned by GLCs and MNCs allow cattle rearing but there are controls and restrictions that do not encourage cattle rearing. Veterinary department do not facilitate and mediate issues arising from cattle rearing between farmers and estate management. Estate workers face difficulty in keeping cows in estates. EPP 5 plan under NKEA focuses on encouraging the rearing of cattle in oil palm estates. But there is no such effort visible on the ground. It’s all big talk and hype but no proper implementation on the government.

Unfortunately people like Datuk Sharizat Abdul Jalil can secure RM250 million for national feedlot project which was never used for cattle rearing. But genuine cattle farmers don’t get even a lease land and support to expand cattle farming from ministry of agriculture. With proper support and guidance Indian dairy cattle farmers will save billions of ringgit and make dairy farming a big revenue earner for Malaysia. The current MP for Labis Datuk Chua Tee Yong who is a deputy minister of agriculture has not done anything for cattle farmers in labis except giving cows to MIC and PPP local leaders who are not cattle farmers.  Discriminative policies are the biggest stumbling blocks to farmers. BN government has failed to develop this industry which is dominated by Indians.

Cattle farmers should convert their milk into downstream products to add value and sell at better prices. EPP13 plan to develop cluster dairy farm is a failure to far.  Cattle farmers need a political change to expand their dairy farming. It’s now or never.

Explore posts in the same categories: From the desk of Senator S Ramakrishnan

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