The National, Tuesday 20th December 2011
By JAMES LARAKI
AS demand for livestock increases, efficient methods to increase production will be crucial to meet global needs, a new United Nations report said.
It warned that current production practices lack the necessary capabilities to provide sustainable solutions over the next few decades.
Although much has been said about livestock’s role in achieving food security, in reality, the subject has been only partially addressed, particularly in the developing world.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in recognising that food security is central to international development, has prepared the report to tell the story of livestock and food security from three perspectives.
It begins by presenting a global overview, examining the role that livestock play in human nutrition, the world food supply and access to food particularly for poor families. Next, it moves from the global level to a human perspective, examining the way in which livestock contributes to the food security of three different human populations, livestock-dependent societies, small-scale mixed farmers and urban dwellers.
The final part of the report looks to the future. It discusses the expected demand for livestock source food and the way that increased demand can be met with ever more limited resources. It reviews the drivers that led to the livestock revolution, how these have changed and what the implications will be for livestock contributing to resilient food systems of the future.
“As it stands, there are no technically or economically viable alternatives to intensive production for providing the bulk of the livestock food supply for growing cities,” the World Livestock 2011 report, released early this month by FAO, said.
According to the report, by 2050, consumption of animal protein will increase by two-thirds, particularly in developing countries, bringing new strains on the planet’s natural resources.
An urgent challenge is to make intensive production more environmentally benign.
Much of the demand will be met by large-scale, intensive animal-rearing operations. However, the report warns that large-scale production is a source of concern due to negative environmental impacts such as groundwater pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as well as their potential to act as disease incubators.
Rather than increasing production, the report argues that improvements in the efficiency of current livestock systems will be needed, which will require capital investment and supporting policies.
“An urgent challenge is to make intensive production more environmentally benign,” the report says.
“It provides three ways to achieve this: reducing the level of pollution generated from waste and GHGs, reducing the input of water and grain needed for each output of livestock protein and recycling agro-industrial by-products through livestock populations.
The report stresses that one of the main challenges the industry faces is keeping livestock healthy as production is ramped up, as diseases may directly threaten human health.
“It is not enough to pour funding into coping with the urgent disease threats of today – disease intelligence and epidemiological research must be financed to anticipate future diseases in the countries that produce the bulk of livestock source food,” it says.
Animal protein products today make up 12.9% of calories consumed worldwide, amounting to 20.3% in developed countries.
However, the report says consumption has not increased evenly around the world. In developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, many communities have not seen an increase in their animal protein consumption, the report says.
“Average consumption of livestock protein in Africa is less than a quarter of that in the Americas, Europe and Oceania and represents 17% of the recommended consumption level for all proteins,” the report says.
“By contrast, the consumption of livestock protein in the Americas, Europe and Oceania in 2005 was between 78% and 98% of the total protein requirement, suggesting that livestock
products are being over-consumed.”
The report adds that an increase in livestock consumption in developing countries is needed as it can have significant effects combating malnourishment.
In PNG, most of the livestock products are imported, apart from poultry where there is high tariff on import which, to some extend, protects local production.
However, this may change as the demand for livestock increases, particularly with major projects like the LNG and changing diet with the increase in middle class which would require increased supply of livestock products. Such would definitely demand for increase in capacity of the livestock producers to meet current demand.
NARI is focusing on assisting smallholder livestock growers and is focusing on feeding options. It is aware that many smallholders are having difficulty with commercial feeds, both in terms of cost and accessibility.
To address this, it is undertaking various studies to source livestock feeds using locally available resources.
Through such studies, NARI has released two improved technologies – silage technology for pig feed using sweet potato and a broiler concentrate as a least cost-feeding option for finishing broilers. Both technologies were developed using locally available feed sources.
These efforts are not enough as the FAO report notes and we have to do more. It requires the efforts of all concerned; relevant government agencies, R&D organisations, private sector, NGOs and the people to ensure we are doing our part in improving livestock production in an environmentally-friendly manner.
With additional challenges of climate change, we certainly have a lot on our hands in terms of food security and livestock