ILRI's Jimmy Smith on the transformation of dairy sector in India in celebration of India 75 years of independence

Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), gave a lecture ‘Insights from the transformation 2072016 of dairy sector in India’ in celebration of 75 years of independence (Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav) of India on 17 February 2022, at the invitation of Trilochan Mohapatra, secretary of the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE) and director general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

Smith described the global work of ILRI with emphasis on ILRI’s activities in South Asia. He spoke about the transformation of the dairy sector in India since independence, its different trends, lessons learned for improvement, and future prospects. He quoted that the amount spent on dairy production has increased over 30-fold between 1970 and 2011, but that consumption expenditure shares remain constant at 38% rural, 62% urban. The commodity value of dairy market in India was INR13,174 billion in 2021 and is expected to raise up to INR30,840 billion by 2027. He highlighted the achievements of ‘Operation Flood’ in the enhancement of milk production per animal.

Smith also discussed sustainability strategies. Doubling milk yield through better feeding, genetics and health could reduce India’s total methane emissions by 25%. A small change in crop residue quality could have a significant impact on milk production, and using spin-off technologies from second-generation biofuel production can turn crop residues from ‘waste’ into high-quality concentrates. He also highlighted the importance of a One Health approach in the Indian context, and discussed the different areas at the animal-human health interface where ICAR and ILRI can work together.

In his closing remarks, Smith stated that the future prospects and improvement of dairy sector in India depend totally upon political will, changes in policy and institutional environment, connecting farmers to market, building dairy industry from its current smallholder base, and enabling and improving safe informal markets. Also, using technology elements that work for smallholders, women and youth like improved feed, genetics and artificial insemination, while improving animal health and addressing climate challenges.

R B Singh, former president, National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), agreed that Indian dairy production should be in the form of mass production by the masses.

Trilochan Mohapatra, director general of ICAR, expressed his thankfulness to Smith for accepting the invitation and delivering a very informative talk on the dairy sector in India. Following the talk, Habibar Rahman, ILRI regional representative for South Asia, further detailed the activities undertaken in India and impact of ILRI research on the livestock sector in the country.