In an effort to offer sustainable solutions to developing West Africa’s dairy sector, European and West African dairy farmers and stakeholders met on Wednesday, November 2nd in Abuja at a two-day roundtable conference to proffer new business models that will create employment and profit for the industry.
The conference which was themed ‘Milky Way to Development’ was hosted by Danish dairy giant, Arla Foods, makers of Dano milk powder, CARE Denmark, Billital Maroobe (RBM), Danish Agriculture & Food Council (DAFC) and the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Agriculture.
Giving his opening remarks at the conference, the Vice Chairman, Arla Foods, Jan Toft Noergaard, said Arla is proud to host farmers and other stakeholders in both European and West African dairy sector.
“We believe there are more feats to be achieved, with an alliance like this. I am sure things will happen faster. This conference is set to discuss and offer solutions in challenges facing the dairy sector in West Africa and development of the dairy sector to improve the livelihood of farmers,” he said.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who was represented by the Director, Animal Production and Husbandry Services, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Egejuru Eze noted that the roundtable is happening at a time the vision of the government of Nigeria is taking a holistic approach to develop the livestock industry especially the dairy sector.
“It is heartwarming to note the increased interest and flow of foreign direct investment into the livestock industry from different parts of the world, particularly in dairy productions. Efforts of this nature will increase capacity to meet local dairy demand. Presently the annual national dairy output and demand are estimated at 700,000mt and 1,300,000mt respectively, giving a supply gap of about 600,000mt,” the Minister said.
The Program Coordinator, CARE Denmark, Rolf Hernoe explained that the ‘Milky Way to Development’ is an alliance of stakeholders in the dairy industry, including dairy farmers and companies in the West African region.
“So far we have one European industrial producer and we are hoping to expand. We see this as the beginning of something bigger, we are currently discussing with ECOWAS to take a more active role in the alliance” he said.
Mr. Hernoe said that local dairy farmers stand to benefit from the alliance, as the focus is on avoiding the negative impact of imports of powdered milk into the region and greater focus on involving local farmers in the value chain so that milk will be more available and safer and be processed into higher value products which benefits everyone. The alliance will facilitate technology transfer and investment which will definitely be of benefit to local farmers.
Others at the conference included the Danish Ambassador to Nigeria, Torben Getterman who is representing the Development Agency of the Danish Government, said:
“the Danish Government is supporting the idea of the ‘Milky Way’ alliance because of it firm believe in the principle and overarching idea of the alliance. The ‘Milky Way’ alliance is a good example of how cooperation between governments, sectorial organisations, private companies, research institutes and NGOs can result in projects that carry with them benefits on so many levels” he said.
Others who spoke at the conference included the Commissioner, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, Economic Community of West African States, Tchambokou Ayassor, who during his speech said the need for partnership of this nature in West Africa sub-region cannot be overemphasize, saying “a gathering like this is very important for the economic development of agriculture in the sub-region as it will give opportunities for technology transfer, development of cross boarder professional association and formulation of policy framework that will foster a faster development of the dairy sector and agriculture business in West Africa”.