Global Dairy Congress Asia 2018: Understanding dairy supply and demand drivers
Half supply-intensive, half demand-centric, the 4th Global Dairy Congress Asia was held on June 11 and 12th at Singapore's Holiday Inn Hotel. Over two days participants examined numerous Asian dairy production and consumption drivers.
Dr. Quaza N.H. Nizam, Malaysia's veterinary services director-general surveyed his nation's dairy industry, highlighting how factors such as farm scale, labor shortages, animal genetics and feed costs hold back production.
Hendro Poedjono, FrieslandCampina's Asia corporate affairs director discussed how Asian dairy's poor productivity and resulting low returns force dairy cattle to compete against everything from solar panels to tourism for scare pastureland.
The remainder of day one keynoted marketing strategies designed to de-commodify dairy goods. Olivier Vavasseur, managing director for international markets at DMK Baby/Humana explained linkages between demographics, consumer demand and product innovation. Catherine Tsui, global design director for Labbrand showed how branding and package design differentiate dairy goods while boosting their pricing power.
All this was complemented with a thought-provoking presentation by attorney Charles Fisher from FoodLegal. He explained how the liberalization of Australian food labeling laws is transforming dairy marketing. According to Fisher, "In Australia, you no longer need regulatory approval to make dairy product health claims. This has created considerable new space for upping the ante in health product marketing."
Others stressed that marketing efforts must be tailored to unique Asian circumstances. For example, one participant noted that in Asian countries like India and Indonesia, a dearth of home refrigeration restricts consumer markets to UHT milk while making the mass marketing of fresher, pasteurized milk impossible.
The realism of Sean Seow, Asia Food and Safety Director for International Dairy Queen also brought marketing ambitions back down to earth: Seow stressed that successful marketing depends on quality control, which is not easy to do. He asked "How do we bridge US dairy protocols to our Asian suppliers?" –and a great deal of conference time was later taken up by quality-centric issues.
Day two emphasized practical, supply-side aspects of dairy farming. Prakash Kalrickal, ST Genetic vice president of business development for Asia, Oceana and the Middle East explained: "How US$1 invested in genetics guarantees a return of US$20."
Successive speakers showed how infrastructure, management and animal welfare optimize cattle genetic potential. Ted Gribble, principal of IDFD explained how large housings boost animal performance and optimize farm management. Gribble concluded, "You can feed them the best rations in the world but you need good housing conditions to put that investment to work."
McLanahan Corporation China agriculture manager Andrew Lenehan highlighted strong connections between animal welfare and cow productivity. Noting that cows can't make milk without sitting and stress boosts productivity lowering cortisol levels, Lenehan concluded "Improving cow comfort shows measurable financial returns."
This emphasis on animal welfare and stress mitigation was counterbalanced by Ronen Koll, Afimilk's international project's manager for Southeast Asia, who emphasized "automatic data collection and monitoring" alongside fast treatment of conditions like mastitis to minimize labor and cattle treatment costs.
Koll's emphasis on efficient farm management, scale and information systems was offset by William Clews, dairy advisor to PT Ultra Jaya. Noting that health problems escalate in proportion to farm scale, Clews warned that "Trying to milk more cows improperly than fewer cows properly will definitely affect profitability." With regards to unique Asian farming conditions, Clews stated that "A cow's environment can change, the cow's requirements do not. You need to gear your facilities to the shortcomings of the cow's environment.'
Scale farming limitations were also explored by Neil Lane, Kyvalley Dairy Group's general farm manager. Lane demonstrated that optimal scale efficiency depends on the milk production model. Large feed-based farms require heavy fixed investments, which bloat operating costs.
Traditional pasture-based dairy has low operating costs but limited scalability. Capital intensive California dairies are most efficient around 1,500 cows. Those in Australia's Victoria state achieve maximum efficiency at 500 cows.
Throughout all this, the need to transition from cost to revenue-centric management was apparent. The conferences marketing emphasis and technical focus were united by one idea: The need for Asian dairy to migrate from a cost minimization-strategy towards one that fearlessly invests in long-term productivity and enlightened management of cattle herds.