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29 September - A new report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calls for unlocking the potential of small-scale dairy production in reducing poverty, raising nutrition levels and improving the livelihoods of rural people in many developing countries.

“Global milk demand is growing by 15 million tons per year, mostly in developing countries,” said Samuel Jutzi, Director of FAO's Animal Production and Health Division.

If the increased volume was produced by smallholder dairy farmers, 3 million new jobs would be created annually, he said.

“Judicious development of the dairy sector could thus make a substantial contribution to achieving the Millennium Development Goal [MGD] of eradicating hunger and poverty,” Mr. Jutzi noted.

According to the new study, published jointly with the International Farm Comparison Network (IFCN), there are some 150 million households – or roughly 750 million people – engaged in small-scale dairy production, with the vast majority in developing countries.

Globally, the mean dairy herd size is around two cows providing an average of 11 litres per farm daily.

Worldwide, there are around 6 billion consumers of milk and milk products, FAO said.

Small-scale producers have very competitive productions costs and therefore, if organized, have the potential to compete with large-scale, capital-intensive and high-tech dairy farming systems, the report found.

Smallholder farmers are also comparatively resilient to rising feed prices since they only use small amounts of purchased feed for their cows.

The publication calls for better farm management practices, expanding dairy herd sizes and increasing milk yields so as to enhance smallholder labour productivity, which is low.

For this to happen, several challenges – including poor access to production and marketing advice, as well as limited access to capital – must be overcome, it added.

“Smallholders are generally very resource-efficient,” said Joachim Otte, one of the report's co-editors. “Access to credit, improved animal genetic resources and animal health services, together with supportive political measures enabling them to participate in changing markets, are crucial.”