Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Got Milk?

The Chinese are increasing their consumption of dairy products, with repercussions for the rest of the world:

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, China's consumption of milk has gone from 26 kilocalories per person per day in 2002 to 43 in 2005. Westerners consume many times more, but their demand is stable.

A billboard in Beijing shows a small grinning child clutching a carton of milk, with champion hurdler Liu Xiang towering above holding a similar carton. The message is simple - drink milk and grow up to be a big, strapping athlete.

It doesn't quite square with a dietary tradition that, among the vast majority of Chinese at least, has never featured significant quantities of milk.

....As well as planning for more milk consumption, the Chinese government is making every effort to increase production, recently rising to the third biggest producer in the world behind the US and India.

The businesses are doing dairy on a massive scale using imported Friesian cows.

Nuffield farm scholar Emma Hockridge visited Chinese dairy facilities on a research trip.

"There does seem to be a really strong government push to eat more cheese and dairy. There is very much an aspirational Western diet.

....And despite the efforts of the Chinese government, when production fails to meet demand the consequence is higher global prices. Germany, a big exporter of milk, has already seen prices rise. In Britain the phenomenon will be slower to take effect as farmers are locked into contracts that keep an agreed price.

....Jim Begg, head of Dairy UK, says it is clear the average UK consumer will be affected by China's newfound love of milk.

"It is true and it's real. The world's markets, commodity markets, are booming and it's being driven by the demand of China.

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