Where the milk comes and goes

Agriculture is the backbone of the world’s economic activity. In 2020, agriculture held a value of US$3.6 trillion, an increase of $2.54 trillion from 20 years ago. A report from the University of the Potomac in the US shows that milk is the most commonly cultivated agricultural commodities in the world. Today, 37 countries have cow’s milk as their top agricultural product. The US produces 101 million tonnes per annum, while India’s output amounts to 87 million tonnes. Brazil comes in at 36 million tonnes of cow milk per year.

In Europe, Germany is one of the biggest milk producers, with over 33 million tons of milk produced every year. In monetary terms, this amounts to US$12.9 billion. It also is the world’s top exporter of dairy products, with 1.5 million tonnes shipped abroad yearly, making it responsible for one-sixth of all cow milk traded globally. Interestingly, Czechia comes in second, with 896,000 tonnes of cow milk exports, with the UK coming in third with 751,000 tonnes.

The UK’s numbers alone show why governments ignore livestock agriculture issues at their peril. It’s an economic powerhouse and in the case of livestock, offers the opportunity for both carbon sequestering as well as carbon emissions. It often produces much more than it consumes, when it comes to the amount of people needed to provide food for everyone else.

But still, only three per cent of public climate finance has gone to food production, we found out on Agriculture Day at COP27 in Egypt. As Betty Chinyamunyamu, the CEO of the national smallholder farmers association in Malawi, said, farmers should be part of the solution and not just recipients when it comes to climate change. The process should be concentrating on making everyone a winner, not winners and losers.

For more information potamic.edu/where-does-our-food-come-from

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