Milk production
Image Credit: Supplied

Global milk production reached nearly 906 million tonnes in 2020, up 2 per cent from 2019, boosted by output increases across geographical regions, according to figures released by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). Milk volume increases were highest in Asia, followed by Europe, the Americas, Oceania and Central America and the Caribbean.

According to figures released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, world milk production is expected to grow exponentially at 1.6 per cent per annum. over the projection period till 2029, to reach 997 metric tonnes. This growth is relatively higher than most other main agricultural commodities.

Of this, India and Pakistan will continue to be considered important milk producers, contributing towards more than half the growth in global milk production and accounting for over 30 per cent of world production figures by 2029. The European Union, considered the world’s second largest producer of milk is expected to see slower growth in production figures considering environmental restrictions and limited domestic demand. The US, one of the largest producers of milk and milk-based products, saw a dip in production figures despite heightened demand last year due to Covid, as did several other countries.

Pandemic concerns

Pandemic woes disrupted milk production cycles in the US early last year in April as the pandemic wrought havoc on global distribution and logistics schedules. Perishables such as milk were the most hit with local farms and cooperatives in the US and Canada reporting dumping entire collections for the week with social distancing and the resulting lockdown rules coming into force globally between March and July last year. A report by Reuters in April last year highlighted concerns among US milk manufacturers stating how mass closures of restaurants and schools forced an almost seismic shift from wholesale food-service markets to retail grocery stores, resulting in logistical and packaging nightmares for plants processing milk, butter and cheese. Trucking companies moving dairy produce were also finding it difficult to source drivers who had stopped working citing pandemic concerns. Milk production has since picked up as lockdown restrictions were eased.

Dairy prices

International dairy prices measured by the FAO Price Index averaged at 101.8 points in 2020, down 1 per cent from 2019 reflecting the reduced import demand due to widespread economic downturns across several dairy importing nations. Reduced internal sales and the increased processing of less-labour-intensive milk products to overcome labour shortages, especially milk powders in exporting countries weighed on global milk prices as well.

Several nations, normally viewed as major importers of milk and milk-based produce, are also on the march to be increasingly self-reliant in terms of milk production, with countries in the Middle East such as the UAE leading the charge.

Sustainable production and the UAE

The UAE’s push towards sustainable agriculture and manufacture of perishables and essentials is seeing local entrepreneurs experimenting with milk farms and cooperatives in the desert, allowing major milk brands to source their produce locally and with some operating their own farms here in the UAE. UAE dairy brand, Al Rawabi, for instance operates a 14,000-head farm just a half hour drive from Downtown Dubai. With shaded corrals and ventilating fans with water misters helping cows to cool off in the intense summer heat, and an on-site milk processing and manufacturing plant, production at the local farms is going from strength to strength. Marmum, another UAE brand and that runs a 4,200-head unit even uses proprietary desalination technology to meet the farm’s water requirements for its herds. The farm averages around 52.5 million litres of milk annually.

The market for exotic milk and milk products such as camel milk is also driving sectoral growth in the country.

UAE camel milk brand Camelicious, for instance is the world's largest facility for camel milk production. Housing up to 9,000 camels, it hopes to increase numbers up to 20,000 within the next five years.

Saeed Juma Bin Subaih, General Manager, Emirates Industry for Camel Milk & Products, Camelicious, while speaking to local media said, "We are proud to be among the local companies that contribute to achieving food security in the UAE by producing more than four million litres of camel milk annually and that is distributed through 65 different products. We also export to more than 16 nations including China, Russia, the US, Japan and the European Union.”

All about World Milk Day

World Milk Day is an international day established by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN to recognise the importance of milk as a global food. Observed on June 1 each year since 2001, the day provides an opportunity for industry players to raise awareness milk and dairy products as well as activities connected with the dairy sector.