Can Milk Become Pakistan's Biggest Export in Place of Textiles?
Photo by VLENTINAMASLOVA via Twenty20

Can Milk Become Pakistan’s Biggest Export in Place of Textiles?

Being the fourth largest milk-producing country in the world, Pakistan can earn more than 30 billion US dollars each year. So what’s really stopping us from being a global major milk exporter? 

The only industry that comes to mind when we discuss our country’s exports is Textiles. Why don’t fish products pop into our minds or electrical equipments? After all, textiles are responsible for making around 60% of Pakistan’s overall exports.

Temporary good news is that the sector is presently working at its optimum level, yielding at its fullest. You might be wondering why the leading trend is called “temporary.” Well, the answer is that while coronavirus has wreaked havoc in almost every country in the world, especially disrupting the cotton industries of major contributors like Bangladesh and India, it has been less impactful on Pakistan. As a result, global traders have diverted orders to us instead.

The bad news is of course the “temporary part.” Once things get back to normal for the former textile giants, the much-celebrated upsurge is most likely to reverse. As an outcome, Pakistan’s economy, which leans heavily on the textiles sector, may suffer.  

The excessive dependence on textiles is not a new happening. The government annually gives the industry stipends on the import of the requisite raw material and machinery. Moreover, the sector has also been granted multiple bailout packages throughout the 73-year history of Pakistan.

Many have identified the issues that the country might encounter if it continues to rely on one sector. One such is Dr. Ishrat Hussain, advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Industrial reforms. He stressed the significance of diversifying the country’s export during a web seminar conducted by the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

He also put forward the idea of how Pakistan can earn 23 to 25 billion US dollars if we export intermediate goods and component raw material to China. The listeners also seemed on the same page as Dr. Hussain.

Just last month, it was reported by a Chinese economic agency that China is thinking about importing dairy products from Pakistan. Soon after, the news was confirmed by Badar Uz Zaman, the Commercial Counsellor at the Pakistani Embassy in China, who said that Pakistan has got this opportunity because of the availability of high-quality dairy goods that too at affordable rates.

Indeed, the virgin industry of dairy products holds the immense potential of yielding the best quality products. It would not be wrong if we say that the potential might prove to be “white gold” for the country if appropriately utilized.

Why Wasting Potential? 

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, global milk production has seen an upward trend in the last three decades with an increase of more than 60%. The curve shows how the production has taken a steep angle by increasing from 530 million tonnes in the year 1998 to 843 million tonnes in the year 2018.

The rapid flux can prove to be a golden opportunity for agricultural-based countries like Pakistan to earn large amounts of foreign exchange by trading dairy products and milk to countries that are unable to meet their people’s demands.

Unfortunately, the potential of earning millions of dollars more is being wasted. According to the information provided by the country’s dairy association, dairy and livestock are reported to contribute to earning only 3.1% of the overall foreign exchange.

There are several reasons behind this:

The obstacles can be found laid right on the roots. Our local farmers and cattle breeders are unaware of modern methods that can be utilized to take care of animals in a much better way so that it shortly affects their milk yield and quality. Farmers are often unable (or do not) to give nutritious and fresh feed to the animals while many fail in getting them immune on time against diseases. Besides, the lack of professional veterinarian doctors coupled with the faulty prescriptions of medicines given to animals by quacks contributes more to the dairy sector’s misery. 

The unhealthy method of illegally dosing animals to increase milk production has also become common nowadays, especially in dairy farms that are located close to urban centers. It has been quite a while since cattle breeders are misapplying oxytocin doses, which contain hormones intended to increase production. 

With adverse effects on the animal’s health, the misused injection is also a threat to the health of people who consume that milk, and ultimately unpleasant for business. As per a report released by MSF in 2019, such injections can be very risky for newborns and mothers’ health.

The lack of proper education and training in farmers is only one part of the whole issue. Indeed, a few organizations that retail packaged dairy products function closely with local farmers living in rural or suburban areas. Such organizations assist the farmers in preparing a more nutritious feed for the animals and also take care of their vaccination and handling responsibilities. But these efforts can only make a minor impact on a sector that is as big as the cotton textile sector, but untouched.

Unfortunately, tonnes of milk still get lost due to the absence of decent storage and preservation facilities with the farmers and a few other factors such as the unavailability of proper infrastructure and roads to transfer products from farmlands to urban centers. 

Not only the reasons mentioned above are responsible for keeping the sector of dairy products untapped, the lack of complete support and broadly-thought policies by the country’s authorities for exports have also landed the sector in misery. The only solution to this is to enter the global market of dairy products like countries such as Turkey, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh have. 

The recent memorandum of understanding signed between Nestle Pakistan and the Chinese Huiya Group for buying dairy products from Pakistan is a giant welcoming step. What the country wants to see are more such plans so it can flourish the way it deserves to. 

About Tehreem Fatima

Tehreem Fatima is an experienced writer/essayist who has collaborated with different platforms over the past year. You can reach her out at any time!

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