The dairy industry plays a key role in feeding the world and must respond dynamically and forcefully on a global level to those who challenge its nutritional and environmental integrity according to Dr Judith Bryans, President of the International Dairy Federation.
Speaking at the China Dairy Industry Association Annual Conference held in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, Dr Bryans said increased demand for dairy products around the world is offering multiple opportunities that need to be grasped.
Dr Bryans said: "Milk is one of the most produced and valuable commodities traded globally. Day after day, dairy provides nutrition and value and as such it enriches people's lives.
"When the United Nations set in place its Sustainable Development Goals as a universal call to action it was clear that dairy was a part of the solution in terms of helping to deliver a number of these goals around nutrition, healthy people, a healthy planet, helping to lift people out of poverty and hunger and empowering females who can then empower their own families.
"So, if we are part of the solution then we must have opportunities and be ready and equipped to take them. We know the world's population is growing and will reach over 9 billion by 2050. We know that the world's demographics are changing and that soon we'll have more older people in the world than new births. We know that as people prosper their desire to consume dairy goes up.
"Dairy has a role in meeting their needs if we have the right products and ingredients and if people understand the benefits. To be fit for the future we need to continue to be innovative and make sure we have the right products available that are culturally acceptable, nutritious, safe, sustainable and affordable and delivered in a way that makes them relevant to the lives of our consumers. That will vary from country to country and continent to continent. And we must never get complacent and forget to tell consumers why we are important to them and the world.
"Dairy has long been recognised as providing high quality nutrition but the sector is now being attacked on this by anti-dairy groups and plant based alternatives. Our environmental credentials are also being questioned. As a sector, we know we have a strong case to put forward to policy makers as to why dairy farming and dairy products should form an integral part of feeding the world and helping to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It's essential that we do that at every opportunity"
Dr Bryans told the conference that there is optimism in world dairy markets at the moment but the caveat to that is that dairy markets have always experienced cyclical volatility. It can have profound effects on dairy farmers and processors alike.
She added: "We need to continue to develop a range of tools to help our dairy farmers through those difficult periods of time. "
In 2016, the FAO signed the Dairy Declaration of Rotterdam with the IDF in which the FAO recognised the importance of dairy, with the IDF committing to continuous improvement, with the declaration setting out a number of principles for doing so. A number of IDF member countries have endorsed the Dairy Declaration since then. Dr Bryans congratulated the China Dairy Industry Association for being the first country to endorse the principles. The Declaration aims to underline the integrated approach that the dairy sector takes to promote the sustainability of dairy systems, taking into consideration social, economic, health and environmental dimensions.