To celebrate World Milk Day last June 1, the National Dairy Authority (NDA) held a press conference discussing intensified dairy programs to aid in the 8-point socioeconomic agenda of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
The press conference was held in the Agricultural Training Institute in Quezon City. The speakers of the event were Dr. Gabriel Lagamayo, administrator of the NDA, Danny Fausto, president of the Dairy Confederation of the Philippines (DCP), and Emeliza Laurenciana, chairwoman of Sta. Maria Dairy Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative.
Lagamayo was the first to take the stage and opened his message with the vision of the NDA: to increase dairy production to 500% in the next five years, which would amount to 80 million liters of milk per year. He explained how milk is vital to different aspects of society, such as food security, healthcare, education, and social services.
“Milk is not just a complete food for young children, but its benefits extend to adults and senior citizens as well,” Lagamayo said. “By emphasizing the consumption of milk, we aim to contribute to the overall wellbeing of our population.”
Increasing the country’s dairy production to 500% requires data-driven and efficient farm management, as well as the cooperation of farm cooperatives and increase in island-born dairy animals.
Currently, a single cow can produce only eight to ten liters per day, but Lagamayo believes that this can be increased to 15 to 16 liters through better feed quality. The NDA is initiating the establishment of feed centers in rural areas which they hope cooperatives could emulate and distribute.
The NDA also plans to develop five stock farms in General Tinio, Nueva Ecija, Guinobatan, Albay, Ubay, Bohol, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, and Davao City. These farms will be developed in order to prepare for the import of animals in 2024 which will boost the breeding of island-born animals.
Fausto then followed and presented statistics to show the current state of dairy production in the country. He showed that the gross supply of milk in the Philippines is 3.3 billion liters, however the local dairy production produces less than 1% of that. Majority of the milk we consume is from imports.
In order to fully meet the demand of milk in the country, Fausto said that over three million animals are required. However, in 2021, it was recorded that there were only 19,000 carabaos and 27,000 cattle in the country that were dairy types. It is overwhelmingly far from the three million requirement.
Fausto then advocated for one of the programs of the NDA which is improving the genetics of the native animals, and this can be done through artificial insemination (AI). “We will need an army of technicians, AI technicians,” Fausto said. He said that the NDA and the Philippine Carabao Center have the capacity to train 300 technicians a year, and only around 60 to 70 animals are artificially inseminated per year. He believes that improving the number to about 150 to 200 will significantly boost results, however, incentives have to be given to the technicians in order to reach this number.
The last speaker was Chairwoman Laurenciana, who spoke about the history of her cooperative, Sta. Maria Dairy Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative. The cooperative has gone through many agribusinesses, but she highlighted their dairy production and dairy milk processing. Aside from fresh milk, they also make yogurt, flavored milk, milk bars, and sterilized milk.
The cooperative also has co-operators which are other dairy farmers who supply their milk to the cooperative’s milk processing line. “As [early] as 9 o’clock, the [farmers] already earn from the milk that they produce from their farm,” Laurenciana said.
Among the issues of dairy in the country, she referenced the joint program of the NDA and Department of Education (DepEd) in which milk produced by local dairy farms is supplied to students all over the country. While she is thankful for the program, she said that since the program is not year-round, there is a mismatch in demand, consumption and supply. The program is temporarily halted due to the pandemic, however if it’s continued, Laurenciana said that if the program could increase its coverage days of milk feeding, dairy farms can plan on the time to produce and meet the demand of milk, as well as properly deliver it.
After the respective messages of the speakers, the event made way to a question-and-answer portion.
Among the questions asked is the possibility of the 500% increase of dairy production envisioned by the NDA despite environmental factors, such as El Niño. Lagamayo answered that the strategy for this goal is already made resilient against environmental issues. Feed centers are the key to this. “What really affects production is the availability of feed to farmers,” he said. “If we let the cooperatives supply the feed and operate the distribution properly for the farmers, of course at a price that is good and in a way that the cooperatives can profit a bit, I believe that they can get through any environmental issues, whether it’s El Niño or La Niña.”
Another asked about the budget, capacity, and timeline of the five stock farms they intend to develop. Lagamayo answered that the budget is P498 million and explained that some farms need to be developed from scratch, such as the land in Davao. The farms’ sizes range from 60 hectares to over a hundred hectares, and they hope that these farms can house 500 to a thousand heads in total. These farms are expected to be ready by the end of 2023.
After the question-and-answer portion, Lagamano said a few words for World Milk Day. “World Milk Day is celebrated all over the world. [But] milk isn’t our culture. So, hopefully, this is the beginning where World Milk Day is part of our culture. Where we are not only celebrating the production of milk, but we are celebrating the promise of progress in the health and nutrition of our fellowmen.” he said.
Deputy Administrator of the NDA, Atty. Gavino Alfredo Benitez then stood up to give the closing remarks of the event. Attendees of the event were given a small cup of milk courtesy of the Sta. Maria Dairy Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative. “In your indulgence, I am inviting you to a milk toast,” Benitez said. “A toast for World Milk Day, as well as for the further development and success of our local dairy industry.”