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Posted on: Friday, February 26, 2016

Globally milk is staple diet for all human beings and particularly for infants and the elderly, with the exception of those allergic to lactose. In Pakistan almost every buyer complains about the availability of   “pure” milk, or every one complains about the adulteration of milk ranging from mixing water to hazardous chemicals, based on solid evidence. On January 3, 2016 MiqdadSibtain writing in Business Recorder under the title “Loose milk: to drink or not to drink” warns of “serious damages” to human health for the majority of the population buying loose milk. All facts are based on in depth knowledge of the subject matter. On January 30, 2016 the TV channel SAAMAfrom 7-8p.m., aired a program focusing on a factory in Karachi “manufacturing” milk from a chemical for the past four years. The owners had fled the scene but the workers informed that ten drums of chemical mixed with unhygienic water and iceproduced twenty drums of milk. In one day they were producing and supplying 790 liters of this milk. This “manufacturing” of milk perhaps is taking placebecause, studies after studies are claiming that while Pakistan is the fourth/fifth largest producer of milk but remains a net importer of milk to meet the domestic demand.  They attribute the shortage to losses during transportation and storage. Earlier, The Express Tribune on 26 October2015, provided first hand evidence on the actual milk supplies in Pakistan by SarfrazRehman, former CEO of Engro Food. Ruling out the reliability of annual census of animals, he said, Engro Foods and other large chains in the market estimated milk supplies in terms of milk being traded in the market.   Based on their knowledge they also included the volumes consumed in-house in milk producing areas and large amounts wasted due to spoilage, particularly due to lack of electricity,  and concluded that real per-capita milk availability and consumption are both significantly lower than claimed. He says the Milk Tree prepared by them in 2007 is extensively used by the dairy industry but is ignored by the federal and provincial governments in their statistics.Therefore, he concludes that large scale dairy farming must be encouraged by the government by providing the physical infrastructure and the technical knowledge base to meet the upcoming shortages with ever increasing population. Pakistan, he says, is not a milk “king”.

To understand the actual situation regarding this essential item of consumption the CPS is organizing thisPanel discussionon Feburay 22, 2016,to ask experts to educate the participants on the following issues:What is the quantity, quality and productivity of the milk animals we have and why? Whether we are the fourth/fifth largest producers in the world or not, the fact remains animal productivity in Pakistan is well behind other major dairy producers. For example, Pakistan has three times the animals compared to Germany, but milk yield per animal is one-fifth of Germany and one-third of New Zeland.  This requires an in depth study of the factors responsible for this low productivity and the resulting loss of economic potential.

Secondly, the quantity of milk produced and the analysis of its distribution show that 97% of the supply is through katcha and paccadhodis and packaged milk has only 3% of the market share. As pointed out earlier the dangers of this informal supply of milk for human health are enormous. It is essential that experts in agriculture and animal husbandry should share their insights with the general public. The marketing of milk to peri-urban and urban areas follows an extensive chain,which at some stage end up using ice and one or the other chemicals or a mix of chemicals to avoid spoilage due to rising temperatures. The physical dispersal of informal dhodis and small dairy farms makes it difficult to enforce quality standards.Not only it is impossible to track such suppliers, the non-availability of laboratories near to their locations is a great hindrance.Furthermore, the quality of milk is affected by the safer time span for boiling milk by domestic consumers, dangers associated with the concept of killing bacteria by extending the duration of boiling milk etc. It is also important to know why majority of the population prefers dhodis.

The small share of UHT processed milk in view of the hazardous supplies of milk to a large proportion of the population is worrisome. The fault partly lies with the UHT producers, they need to educate people about the working of UHT plants and the final outcome. It is not so difficult in the present age of electronic media, and more effectively by arranging visits of students to their plants to see the whole process of milk collection and the final product.  We would expect a UHT expert to educate us about the UHT treatment methods-direct and indirect; the heating systems, kinds of packaging available and those used, the UHT- the whole process flow from raw milk to UHT. This would help allying the ordinary fears on the use of milk powder, the homogenization of the cream content etc., etc., to promote the UHT milk in Pakistan.

The regulatory framework relating to food markets in Pakistan is governed by the Pure Food Rules (PFR) of 1965 (and Cantonment Pure Food Rules of 1967 for military areas, and the Pure Food Ordinance of 1960. The regulations pertaining to milk industry are to be found in PFR and include section 18-23 dealing with the use of prescribed clean metal containers; disallowing imperfect enameling and tinning of containers, milk from diseased animals, employing workers with any disease, and laying down the processes and procedures for sterilization.

Sections 272 and 273 of the Pakistan Penal Code prescribe penalties for food adulteration: six months imprisonment and/or one thousand rupees fine. PFR gives authority to provincial governments to appoint public analysts for investigation of quality and safety of food.  There is no federal structure of a food safety program in Pakistan. Enforcement is done through health service delivery channels of provincial governments. The district authorities function as food inspectors and municipal authorities are also authorized to appoint food inspectors and sanitary inspectors for sampling purposes. The Sanitary and Phyto Sanitary (SPS) Agreement lays down certain requirements that aim to ensure transparency in the implementation of SPS measures in member countries including Pakistan.  We would expect our expert on regulatory framework to elaborate on this system regulating milk industry and the position with regard to SPS implementation in Pakistan.

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