The dairy sector of Myanmar
The Myanmar dairy sector is in the early developmental stage due to limitations of knowledge, skills, infrastructures, food safety, genetics, funding, and data recording systems.
Myanmar has 54.41 million inhabitants and is the second largest agricultural-oriented country in Southeast Asia, with only around 30% of its people living in urban areas. Traditionally, milk and dairy products have not been an important part of the Burmese diets and started to become part of the country’s economy during the British Rule, supported by the important role of milk in the Indian culture and its closeness and influence on Myanmar.
India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of milk, considering cow and buffalo milk, and the US is the world’s largest cow milk producer. The Myanmar dairy sector, product range and consumer interest have sharply increased in the last decade, accompanying the development of the country, the increase of incomes and the rising awareness about health and nutrition. The national demand for milk has gradually overtaken the local production supply.
The national cattle population is estimated to be around 9.7 million heads in 2018, mainly used for draught power and less than 5% for dairy purposes. There is a variety of indigenous breeds, primarily used as draught animals, originated from Zebu (Bos indicus), which are well adapted to the tropical conditions but have a lower milk production that of imported breeds. In the dairy sector, crossbreds between Holstein and local breeds are the preferred ones because of their higher milk yield and the reasonable tolerance to the environmental conditions.
Among other regional breeds, the “Pyar Sein”, with greyish coat color, results from a crossbreeding between Indian and Burmese breeds, is present in the northern region and dry areas, used for both draught and milk production.
Most of the dairy farms in Myanmar are small-scale family farms milking twice a day to Holstein crossbreds which pasture and receive low quality feedstuff. Because of this, they tend to have low milk yields and short lactations. In intensive Holstein crossbred systems, with better management, water, roughage and concentrate quality, daily milk production per cow can be increased, the lactation period is extended and the calving interval, reduced.
Milk consumption varies widely in Myanmar: people living in urban areas are consuming more fresh milk than in rural areas, where powder and condensed milk are more common. Per capita consumption of milk is around 20 kg, being condensed milk the most consumed dairy product, which is mixed with tea and coffee in the teashops nationally.
The following regions account for most of the dairy cattle of the country: Mandalay, with over half of the dairy population, Yangon, with around one sixth, and Naypyitaw, the capital. More than 80% of the milk produced in Myanmar comes from small dairy farms and is sold as raw milk to processors, consumers, and business close by, due to limited processing facilities.
The annual production of milk is less than half of the national milk demand. Fluid milk is provided by domestic milk processors. Quality control and certification of this milk is not common. Most of the condensed milk and powder milk is imported since local processors cannot compete in terms of price and quality with foreign dairy products. Imports usually come from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, New Zealand, and Australia.
The Myanmar dairy sector is in the early developmental stage due to limitations of knowledge, skills, infrastructures, food safety, genetics, funding, and data recording systems. Several institutions, like the Myanmar Dairy Association, have been created to support the farmers and expansion of the industry.
There is the need of a national dairy cattle improvement program including genetics, nutrition, and management to improve the quality of the milk and the efficiency of the milk producing process and, in this way, to meet the current and future demands of milk and dairy products.