At commissioning of dairy products unit--
Dairy farmers urged to meet Guyana milk needs By Jaime Hall
Guyana Chronicle
November 18, 2003

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DAIRY farmers are being encouraged to develop sustainable systems in order to meet the other 50 per cent of the national requirement of dairy milk. At present, half of the nation’s demand for dairy milk is supplied by local entrepreneurs.

And as the sector develops to provide more wholesome and nutritious milk, the deficit of imported powdered milk and other milk products would be reviewed in order to give local entrepreneurs a level playing field to compete effectively.

Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock, Mr Satyadeow Sawh, made these remarks yesterday during the commissioning ceremony of the Saint Stanislaus Farm Dairy Products Unit, North Sophia, Georgetown. Mr Sawh, who is also performing the duties of Minister of Agriculture, underscored the importance of milk production for Guyana’s development.

He said that the livestock sub-sector has always played a significant role in Guyana’s agriculture development. It continues to play a pivotal role, too, in providing relatively cheap and readily available sources of animal protein to rural farming communities and the population at large.

Now, with the commissioning of the Saint Stanislaus Farm Dairy Products Unit, some 16 milk-based products will become available on the local market.

The products include yogurt, sour cream, cheese, milk and eggnog. Samples of these products were offered to visitors after the formal commissioning ceremony yesterday.

Milk production has varied from one to two per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Sawh stated. He also pointed out that his Ministry had identified the dairy sector as one of the priority areas for development because of its potential to improve food security and provide improved income generation opportunities for rural communities.

“We have recognised that changes in the global markets demand that more attention be given to this sector,” the Minister said.

In Guyana, low-income groups, pregnant and nursing women and also children under the age of five, are most vulnerable in a situation when costs of milk and milk products increase.

Sawh argued that the dietary deficiency of milk might be one of the leading causes of malnutrition in children below the age of five.

He said that there are approximately 5,000 dairy farmers in the country, and while milk production is done in all ten administrative Regions, higher levels of dairy production are found in Regions Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam); Three (Essequibo Islands/West Demerara); Four (Demerara/Mahaica); Five (Mahaica/Berbice); and Six (East Berbice/Corentyne).

The Minister recalled that over the years, several attempts were made to increase the national milk supply. And while some of the local enterprises have not been sustained for one reason or another, the outstanding success story is the Saint Stanislaus Dairy Farm.

United States Ambassador to Guyana Mr Roland Bullen, who was a guest at the commissioning ceremony, urged dairy farmers to implement the best practices in the dairy industry; to work consciously to remove bottlenecks relating to the production, distribution and consumption of dairy products in Guyana and to exploit any synergies with other projects and donors.

The Ambassador referred to the Dantzig Milk Plant on the East Coast Demerara, which facility he described as being critical to dairy development in Guyana. Consequently, Mr Bullen said, special efforts must be made to ensure successful operation at, or near, full capacity at the plant, which was commissioned about two years ago.

Ambassador Bullen said it is obvious that a mutually beneficial relationship will exist if the activities of this milk processing facility are well integrated and supported by dairy farmers, particularly those from surrounding areas.

Mr Bullen highlighted, too, a Milk Supplementation Project that was executed by the Guyana Dairy Development Programme in collaboration with the Ministries of Health and Education at three schools in Region Five (Mahaica/ Berbice).

A study was conducted to determine the effects of this programme and its findings were presented to the relevant authorities.

He noted that research had found that malnutrition in Region Five was considered being at a high level compared to what existed in other Regions. As a result, he said, an 11-month exercise aimed at reducing malnutrition was carried out on children in the Region.

The children’s diets were supplemented with sweetened and flavored milk, which came from the Dantzig Dairy Plant. The ages, weights, heights and other statistics of the children were documented at the beginning of the exercise.

At the completion of the programme, malnutrition among the children had dropped from 8 per cent to 2 per cent.

Ambassador Bullen suggested that similar milk supplementation programmes be done at other schools in other Regions.