Experts have emphasised the place of milk as an important part of a healthy, balanced diet, advocating the consumption of milk and inclusion of other dairy products in diets to improve healthy living.
Speaking in Abuja at the opening of a two-day event to mark the World Milk Day Mega Celebrations 2023 organised by the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Commercial Dairy Ranchers Association of Nigeria, and Sahel Consulting Agriculture and Nutrition Limited, the experts also called on relevant stakeholders to put policies in place to improve the dairy sector.
Director of Animal Husbandry Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Winnie Lai-Solarin, said that Nigeria imports much of its dairy products and that puts pressure on foreign exchange.
She harped on the need to cut down on the high imports, expand the local dairy industry, and create an enabling environment even for the international players so that the country can have a robust dairy industry.
“Recently, the Federal Executive Council approved the National Dairy Policy, for instance, that gives us guidelines and direction of where we are going. That’s the first thing; before that dairy policy we had the National Agricultural Technology and Innovation Policy that also gave the foundation for the dairy policy,” Lai-Solarin said.
“Now that we have a policy, we are now refocusing the dairy industry. Before now we have focused our attention on collecting wholesome milk,” she said.
Director General of the ACCI, Victoria Akai, said the backward integration policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria has helped to revitalise the dairy sector, attracting foreign investments and creating ranches across the country. She called for more enabling policies to drive the growth of the sector.
Earlier, ahead of the celebration, Akai had described milk as a very vital nutrient to healthy diet of human development, especially for young and aged people.
In a statement, she said many households depend on milk for their diets from cheese, beverages and baking foods of all kinds. However, in Nigeria, 37 percent of about 31 million children under five years are stunted as a result of malnutrition, she said, quoting official figures by United States Agency for International Aid and Development (USAID).
She called on relevant authorities in the country to ensure adequate production of milk for sufficiency as this would serve as a catalyst for business development as well as bridging the gap of local milk supply.
The ACCI had also said it would mark the 2023 World Milk Day with children as part of an effort to encourage milk production and consumption.
World Milk Day, marked June 1 every year, was established in 2001 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to honour the dairy industry and recognize milk’s importance as a global food source.
The theme for World Milk Day 2023 is “Showcasing how dairy is reducing its environmental footprint, while also providing nutritious foods and livelihoods”, according to worldmilkday.org.
Available figures indicate that over 6 billion people consume dairy products worldwide, and the FAO estimates that the dairy industry supports more than one billion livelihoods.