MILK: A GLOBAL FOOD

By: Dr. Parveen Kumar and Dr. D. Namgyal

Milk, rightly called as the complete food, holds an extremely crucial position in our daily intake. It is full of protein and nutrients that are absolutely essential for human growth at all stages of life. Milk is also an amazing source of many healthy nutrients like magnesium, calcium, riboflavin, vitamin A, folate, vitamin D, protein, healthy fats, etc. It provides instant energy to the body as it contains good quality proteins including non-essential and essential amino acids and fatty acids.

The Indian Council of Medical Research states that an individual needs about 600-800 mg/day of calcium which increases to 1200 mg/day in pregnant and lactating mothers. Inadequate calcium intake for longer duration is responsible for osteopenia and osteoporosis. The best source of calcium is milk. 

Milk is an important constituent part of the dairy industry. India has been the leading producer and consumer of dairy products worldwide since 1998 with a sustained growth in the availability of milk and milk products. Dairy activities form an essential part of the rural Indian economy, serving as an important source of employment and income. India also has the largest bovine population in the world. However, the milk production per animal is significantly low as compared to the other major dairy producers. Moreover, nearly all of the dairy produce in India is consumed domestically, with the majority of it being sold as fluid milk. On account of this, the Indian dairy industry holds tremendous potential for value-addition and overall development.

According to the latest report by IMARC Group, titled ‘Dairy Industry in India 2020 Edition: Market Size, Growth, Prices, Segments, Cooperatives, Private Dairies, Procurement and Distribution’, the dairy market in India reached a value of INR 10,527 Billion in 2019. The FAO data also reveal that more than one billion people’s livelihoods are supported by the dairy sector and that dairy is consumed by more than six billion people globally.

To highlight the importance of the contributions of the dairy sector to sustainability, economic development, livelihoods and nutrition and the nutritional value of milk the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations decided to celebrate the first day of June every year as ‘World Milk Day’. The day brings our attention to recognize the importance of this global food and how it is such an imperative part of our diet. World Milk Day was first celebrated about twenty years ago on June 1 each year since 2001. The day is intended to provide an opportunity to bring attention to activities that are connected with the dairy sector and to recognize the importance of milk as a global food. June 1 was chosen as the date because many countries were already celebrating a milk day during that time of year. It is celebrated in many countries like Columbia, Malaysia, Germany, Romania, USA, UAE, etc. Milk is at the centre

throughout this day. The International Dairy Federation launches a variety of promotional activities describing the significance of milk as an amazing addition for a healthy and balanced diet on its website online. So, many members from varied health organizations work together and take part in the celebration to spread the message of milk to the public with the help of different promotional activities throughout the day.

Over the years, the no. of countries and peoples celebrating this day has been on the increase. In the year 2016, World Milk Day was celebrated in over 40 countries. In 2017, 588 events took place in 80 countries reaching 402 million impressions on social media for World Milk Day. Events included open houses at dairy farms, milk donations to schools, contributions to food banks, photo contests, sports competitions, fairs, dance shows, parties, nutrition conferences, tastings, exhibitions, food carts, and milk bars. In 2018, World Milk Day was celebrated with 586 events in 72 countries. Farmers, staff, families, politicians, chefs, nutritionists, doctors, academics and athletes raised their glasses of milk and shared information about the benefits of milk and dairy products in their lives. World Milk Day achieved 868 million impressions (for May 1 to June 2) with over 80,000 posts from May 1 to June 2. The fact that many countries choose to do this on the same day lends additional importance to individual national celebrations and shows that milk is a global food.

The dairy industry also serves as a tool of socio-economic development. The Government of India has thus also introduced many schemes and incentives aimed at the development of the dairy sector in the country. The National Dairy Programme aims to improve cattle productivity and increase the production of milk expanding and strengthening and expanding the rural milk procurement infrastructure and provide greater market access to the farmers. For the last few years the dairy sector has also witnessed the private sector participation.

Both national and international players are entering the dairy industry, attracted by the size and potential of the Indian market. The focus is being given to value-added products such as cheese, yogurt, probiotic drinks, etc. They are also introducing innovative products keeping in mind the specific requirements of the Indian consumers. These players are also improving their milk procurement network which is further facilitating the development of the dairy industry in India. Looking forward, the market is expected to reach a value of INR 25,491 Billion by 2025, exhibiting a Compounded Annual Growth Rate of around 16% during 2020-2025.

The ‘World Milk Day’ is a day that highlights the importance of the dairy product and how we can include it in our daily diet. As per FAO official website, ‘The Day provides an opportunity to focus attention on milk and to publicize activities connected with milk and the milk industry. On this all important day, all our efforts should be to increase public awareness about every aspect of natural milk such as the origin, nutritional value of milk and its products, and its economic importance throughout the world. World Milk Day has had an impact on the population and helped them understand the reality of milk.

At the national and international level messages are conveyed through press releases, news, articles, etc. to highlight the health benefits and nutritional value among the consumers. On a national level, free milk camps are organized, engaging the local celebrities to give out free milk packets to children. Various other programs are also conducted like quiz competitions, discussions, essay writing, sports activities, etc. by schools, colleges, universities, and other such educational institutions to encourage students.

World Milk Day is the best opportunity for us to think about the health and nutritional ability of milk and its products. Being a natural source rich in calcium promoting strong bones and protein which is good for healthy muscles and hunger-busting, its importance need to be highlighted. This day provides this rich resource an attention and awareness of its part in healthy diets, responsible food production, and supporting livelihoods and communities.

The authors are Scientist and Head at KVK-Leh; can be reached at pkumar6674@gmail.com

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