Your letters: More milk and beef
Paper Edition | Page: 8
When I arrived in Indonesia, I saw a photograph in your newspaper with a caption regarding a demand from the milk (cattle) producers association demanding a hike in import duty on milk and dairy products to make the domestic industry more profitable.
It has always struck me that east of India, in Southeast Asia, the consumption of milk and milk products are pretty poor. We had the famous “Operation Flood” in India, which has now resulted in surplus milk throughout India and has also secured rural prosperity. Farmers now have options for poultry farming and cattle rearing along with the cultivation of crops, which ensure ecological balance and environmental protection and at the same time ensures a steady source of income.
In Indonesia, I find milk consumption is low, though during the last eight years that I have been visiting the country, there has been a marginal increase. The Carrefour counters have more milk cartons offering more varieties but the prices are still way too high for low-income families. One liter of full cream milk is around Rp 10,000 (US$1.05) or more. In India after progressive increases in price, low-fat milk now sells for Rp 4,000 or so.
Even impoverished working-class women will buy around 1.5 liters of milk per day for their growing children. Milk is a really versatile comprehensive food with all the necessary minerals, vitamins and protein. Many Indonesians have bad teeth, which may be due to an inherent calcium deficiency which could be overcome by higher milk intakes during childhood. Genetic factors apart, a proper diet is important.
The more fortunate islands, like Java, Sulewasi and Sumatra, enjoy an abundance of fodder and pastoral land that is ideal for rearing cattle. You also have the additional advantage over India in that once a cow has ceased to lactate, it can be used for beef.
It is almost like having the cake and eating it, too! In India, we cannot rear cattle on the same scale due to religious sentiments. We still manage to kill the male cows and buffalos but there are so many barriers to be overcome. Indonesia is a big beef-eating country, though not on the same scale as poultry. Beef alone uses up more natural resources but if milk consumption is taken into account, the balance should be positive.
With the proximity of Australia and New Zealand, Indonesia itself could become a major producer and exporter of milk. It is amusing to see long-lasting Aussie or Kiwi milk selling in Bali at horrendous prices. It is something extraordinary that the Dutch, who once ruled the Indonesian archipelago, never implemented one of their particular strengths — dairy production. Were they afraid of competition?
Meanwhile, I struggle to buy a 200 milliliter carton of milk, priced at Rp 3,250. Towards the end of her life, my mother, who lived to the age of 103, drank two glasses of milk a day and stopped drinking coffee altogether, which had been her favorite drink in her younger years. As I grow older, I find a combination of either yoghurt or milk with fruit is enough for my dinner.