World Milk Day – A celebration for some, a cause for action for others

By Jim Cornall contact

- Last updated on GMT

June 1 is World Milk Day. For some, it's an opportunity to promote milk. For others, it's a chance to highlight low milk prices for farmers. Photo: iStock: Tomasz Wyszołmirski
June 1 is World Milk Day. For some, it's an opportunity to promote milk. For others, it's a chance to highlight low milk prices for farmers. Photo: iStock: Tomasz Wyszołmirski

Related tags: Milk, European milk board

June 1 is World Milk Day, and more than 30 countries around the world are taking part with events and the promotion of milk.

Some companies, such as the New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra, are promoting the day as a reason to celebrate and drink milk, while others, such as the European Milk Board (EMB), are using it as a call to action on low milk prices.  

Fonterra celebrates its products

For Fonterra, it’s an opportunity to promote milk, and the company’s products, as well as some fun facts about the business.

“Milk is one of nature’s original super foods packed with fifteen essential vitamins and minerals, including a large dose of calcium to keep your bones and teeth healthy and strong,” said Rene Dedoncker,  managing director, global brands & nutrition.

“Our Fonterra farmers in New Zealand produce approximately 16bn liters of milk yearly and because of our small domestic market, we export around 95% of that milk as dairy ingredients or as consumer and foodservice products. At peak, we are closing the door on a container of dairy exports out of New Zealand every three minutes,” he added.

Fonterra dairy products, including powders, cheese, butter and specialty ingredients are shipped to more than 100 markets worldwide.

Fonterra facts:

  • More than half of all the pizzas sold in China use Fonterra cheese
  • Clandeboye’s mozzarella plant runs 24 hours a day, making enough cheese to top 300 million pizzas a year
  • Anchor Milk Drink is the fastest growing consumer milk powder in Ethiopia and is formulated with more than 30 nutrients to provide Ethiopians with affordable nutrition
  • In Malaysia, over the past ten years, Anlene – Fonterra’s range of specialty milk – conducted more than 1.4m bone health scans
  • Fonterra supplies enough butter to Indonesia each year to make 200m buns
  • Since it launched its “Fonterra Milk For Schools” program in New Zealand in 2013, more than 50m cartons of Anchor UHT milk have been distributed to 70% of primary schools 

EMB looks to action

The European Milk Board chooses a different tack for World Milk Day, looking at action around the continent.

It says that World Milk Day, “Comes at a time when the waves of extremely low milk prices are threatening to drag thousands of European farmers into poverty.”

It notes several actions taking place. On May 30, Dutch farmers blocked a bus containing EU agriculture ministers visiting a farm.

On May 31, there were demonstrations during the informal meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Amsterdam, and from May 30 to June 1 hundreds of rubber boots were left at the Milk Summit in Berlin as a symbol of farms that have been run out of business.

The EMB also said that there would be milk spraying and milk tipping across Germany, and that French milk producers would be protesting against low prices in front of dairies.

Finally, the famous Manneken Pis statue in Brussels will be spouting milk instead of water on June 1.

Take a picture

The NFU says it is looking to World Milk Day to promote the British dairy industry to shoppers in the UK, along with products like cheese, yogurt and butter.

The organization is urging its dairy farmers to post pictures of their cows, whatever system they use, to demonstrate levels of animal welfare and contentment within UK herds.

Dairy Council statistics

For The Dairy Council in the UK, World Milk Day is a chance to reacquaint the public with some of the facts about the milk we’ve been drinking for 11,000 years.

Members of the public took part in a milk quiz, with questions such as how many Brussels sprouts it takes to get the same amount of calcium as a glass of milk.

The answer? It’s 63.

Milk facts from Euromonitor International

  • The world consumed 107.4bn liters of milk in 2015, up from 101.2bn liters in 2014
  • India is the largest milk market in the world at 15bn liters in 2015 and 6% CAGR since 2010
  • The UK is the largest European milk market at 4.2bn liters in 2015, up from 3.9bn in 2010
  • Finland has the highest per capita consumption in the world, followed by Ireland and New Zealand

Dr Anne Mullen, director of nutrition at The Dairy Council, said: “We decided that World Milk Day was the perfect time to have a bit of fun and ask consumers how much they really know about the milk in their fridge.

“What became clear is that, whilst many of us recognize that milk is a healthy and nutritious, there are actually so many nutrients and minerals contained in one portion of milk that it is almost impossible to remember them all.”

Copa & Cogeca call for action

Copa & Cogeca milk working party chairman Mansel Raymond also used World Milk Day to call for action to solve the EU dairy crisis, warning that without support, consumers will be robbed of the nutritious benefits of milk.

He said, “Packed with calcium and bone-building nutrients, milk is a crucial part of consumers' diets. It is especially important among our children who depend on milk and dairy products to grow healthily. Yet many producers don’t earn enough to stay afloat, with the price they get not even covering their production costs. The market is in a critical state, hit by a combination of factors, especially the Russian export ban and low oil prices.

"Action is consequently vital to ensure we can meet upcoming demand, which is set to grow in the future and to ensure consumers have a healthy balanced diet.”

He said that producer organizations, interbranch organizations and cooperatives, who handle 85% of the milk in the EU, need financial incentives if the EU wants them to adapt their production.

"These funds must not affect the crisis reserve. New markets for our quality produce need to be found and exports credits introduced to give traders more certainty when they export. We also need to look at futures markets and insurance to help protect farmers against the increasing market volatility.”

Canadian industry reminds government of challenges

Wally Smith, president of Dairy Farmers of Canada, used the occasion to praise farmers and milk, and urge government support.

"The Canadian dairy industry is a key economic driver, and contributes almost C$19bn ($14.5bn) a year to Canada's GDP, remits C$3.6bn ($2.8bn) in taxes every year and supports approximately 215,000 jobs across the country. We are very proud of our farmers and their dedication to Canadians. Tomorrow, thousands of dairy farmers will be in Ottawa, despite the busy hay season on their farms, to remind the Government that they need to act in a timely way to tackle the challenges that affect the sustainability of the industry."​ 

About World Milk Day

FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) was asked to propose a specific day on which all aspects of milk could be celebrated.

June 1 was chosen because many countries were already celebrating a national milk day on or around this time. Late May was originally proposed, but some countries, for example China, felt they already had too many celebrations in that month.

While most countries hold their celebrations on June 1, some choose to hold them before or after this date.

The first World Milk Day was celebrated in 2001.

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