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I hope that Kazakhstan and other countries of the region will become part of the IDF - Piercristiano Brazzale, President of the IDF

Kazakhstan 05.03.2024
Source: The DairyNews
824 EN 中文 DE FR عربى
Piercristiano Brazzale, President of the International Dairy Federation IDF, has become one of the key speakers at the 2024 Dairy Olympics, which will be held this year in Ankara, Turkey.
I hope that Kazakhstan and other countries of the region will become part of the IDF - Piercristiano Brazzale, President of the IDF
In an interview with The Dairy News, the expert talked about the global challenges facing the dairy industry and the myths surrounding the impact of the dairy industry on the environment. We also discussed the opportunities for Central Asian countries to join the IDF and most importantly, what benefits we will gain.

Mr. Brazzale, first of all, we would like to congratulate IDF on its anniversary - 120 years! This is truly a significant milestone. Could you tell us a bit about your organization?

Thank you. Yes, last October we celebrated IDF's 120th anniversary in Chicago, USA. Our organization was founded in 1903 and has 40 members fr om different countries. We play an important historical role, representing the entire dairy chain - from farm to end product, including packaging. We bring together national milk processors, farmers, scientific and research circles, farm cooperatives, government bodies including ministries of agriculture, health, environment, suppliers and unions, universities, and academic circles. We have over 1200 experts in our ranks, in 17 standing committees, working in 9 scientific areas such as farm management, dairy science and technology, economics, policy, food standards, and others. We build our activities on four main principles of sustainable development: food standards, nutrition and health, sustainability, safety, and quality.

What are IDF's key activities and achievements today?

We actively collaborate with leading international organizations such as FAO. Recently, I had an official meeting with the Director-General of FAO, wh ere we discussed our cooperation, including work in the group on environmental impact methodologies and in the field of nutrition. In July of last year, at the Food Systems Summit, we represented the dairy sector, which was a significant achievement. Also, last year we developed and presented new LCA methodologies, which is extremely important, as the assessment of our sector's environmental impact is a key aspect. Without proper measurement methods for this impact, we operate only with hypothetical figures, not real data, and this is also one of our significant achievements.

Another achievement is the School Milk Programmes. In 2023, we published materials about this program, providing recommendations for educating children in schools on proper nutrition worldwide. More than 400 million students participate in our program, which includes the use of dairy products. We also collaborate with the World Health Organization and FAO to create a scientific basis proving that animal-derived products are necessary for balanced and healthy nutrition, as well as for a sustainable lifestyle.

We have published a study on the efficiency of energy use at the processing level, which is extremely important in light of the current economic and political difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical conflicts. We offer the right technologies to optimize energy use, which helps us survive in the market.

We actively conduct events and publish materials on the importance of women's participation in the dairy industry, i.e., actively support the role of women in the dairy sector. As a scientific organization, we provide recommendations for effective farm management, organize round tables and webinars to discuss women's participation in the dairy industry and ways to support them. We also call on financial organizations to support women, as their role in this sector is invaluable. In India alone, over 200 million women are employed on dairy farms. The role of women in this industry is important, and we support gender equality within the sustainable development of the food chain.

Mr. Brazzale, you are a prominent expert in the dairy industry worldwide, and we are very pleased that this year you have become the headline speaker at the Dairy Olympics 2024. Could you share with us what your presentation will be about?
In my presentation, I plan to talk about the global dairy sector in the short and long term. I also want to emphasize the role of IDF in supporting the dairy industry to provide healthy and sustainable food products for the constantly growing world population. Today, consumers are becoming increasingly demanding in terms of quality and compliance with sanitary and hygiene standards, and they also expect producers to adhere to the basic principles of environmental sustainability and animal welfare.

Why do you think the event is worth attending?

The event is worth attending for several reasons. First and foremost, because of the high level of speakers and the wide range of topics discussed. All of them are highly qualified international experts capable of providing us with a lot of useful information for a better understanding of how the dairy sector is developing and will develop. We are facing many challenges, including constant pressure fr om civil society demanding compliance with high standards of sustainable production. In addition, there is competition from milk-substitute products, such as plant-based beverages or lab-grown milk.

Could you tell us more about this please?

There are two different categories of milk substitute products: plant-based beverages and lab-grown milk. As for plant-based beverages, this has been a longstanding issue that the International Dairy Federation (IDF) has been actively working on, providing a definition of the word "milk" in the "Codex Alimentarius". This code is a collection of standards, methods, norms, and rules created under the auspices of the FAO and WHO to protect consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade. In 2019, the European Commission banned the use of the term "milk" for plant-based products such as almond, soy, or coconut milk.

Regarding lab-grown milk, there is ongoing discussion. As IDF President in April 2022, I requested the establishment of a working group to determine the nutritional value, safety risks, and proper definition of such milk. Work on this issue began in November 2022. Currently, there is not enough scientific data to claim that lab-grown milk is better or worse than natural milk.

Lab-grown milk cannot be produced in the form we know milk today, but it is possible to create ingredients that mimic milk. However, this is a completely different product. IDF supports the proper definition of milk and recognizes lab-grown milk as a new type of product that is not milk according to the IDF definition.

What do you think about milk obtained from other types of animals? For example, camel milk is very popular in China today, more so than cow's milk. What do you think about this trend worldwide?

This is a good trend! Do you know why camel milk is so popular? It's because it has a higher concentration of fats and proteins, as well as a high content of insulin, and is promoted as a solution or aid for diabetics in managing this condition. As IDF, we represent all types of milk in the world, not just cow's milk, but also goat, sheep, and camel. Returning to the definition of the term, all liquids obtained from milking animals are milk. It doesn't matter if it's from camels, goats, sheep, cows, any mammal. Milk obtained from a human, from a woman, is also milk. But the problem is that camels cannot be managed everywhere in the world, and managing camels is not as easy as managing cows, goats, or sheep, so this is a good trend. We support this trend. FAO has designated 2024 as the Year of the Camel, and we are preparing a special session for the World Dairy Summit, possibly organizing a webinar on camel milk.

The dairy industry also faces pressure from environmental advocates. They often accuse meat and dairy producers of polluting the environment. How fair and true is this accusation?

I have been working as an environmental expert for 20 years, with knowledge in agronomy, dairy technology, and environmental science. We are often accused of high emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide (CO2). However, our emissions are different: they are biogenic and come from carbon introduced into the animals' bodies through feeding. Cows do not emit more carbon than they consume. We do not add new carbon to the atmosphere, unlike sectors using fossil fuels. We capture carbon from the atmosphere through the food cycle and metabolism. Therefore, we cannot be compared to industries or transportation that add new carbon to the atmosphere. Our sector is part of the solution to emissions, not the problem itself. By reducing methane emissions, we can contribute to mitigating climate change. Scientific organizations, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), call on our sector to take action to reduce methane emissions. We are actively developing methodologies and tools to minimize emissions and achieve carbon neutrality. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology plays a key role in measuring the carbon footprint, helping us set goals and take actions to achieve them. We are conducting extensive work to educate farmers and other stakeholders on emission reduction methods. However, it is important to remember that our sector is significantly different from other sectors of human activity. We remind everyone that animal husbandry is not a problem but rather part of the solution to emissions.

So, transportation and other industries do more harm to the environment than the dairy sector?

The problem is that many people believe that those of us working in the dairy sector are causing harm to the environment, but that's not entirely true. The harm to the environment is caused by transportation, industry, and other sectors. In contrast, we not only do not worsen the situation but also contribute to maintaining the environment since we are part of its natural cycle. Unlike sectors that use fossil fuels and add their emissions to the atmosphere, we primarily do not emit carbon. This is confirmed by FAO data. We keep emissions at a minimum level since we do not add new sources of pollution. Despite this, we are often accused, and we cannot always explain that the problem is not with us. It is important to remember one important thing: we also represent this sector in the FAO Committee on World Food Security, wh ere forecasts for the development of the food sector and the need to increase production to meet the growing population are discussed. It is projected that by 2050, the world's population will exceed 10 billion, requiring a 40-50% increase in food production. With an expected 20% increase in animal protein consumption, we need to produce more food in an environmentally friendly manner. This is our role in the IDF - to educate and provide scientific knowledge for sustainable development. The IPCC, the UN Environment Programme, and the FAO emphasize the need for sustainable production. We must intensify production while preserving natural resources such as water, soil, air, and energy. For this, we need science, precision agriculture, and digital technologies to produce more with less impact on the environment. This is the direction we are actively working in.

As far as we know, negotiations on this issue were held in Dubai. Can you share with us the results of these negotiations?

Yes, the UN Climate Conference "COP28" is an important event dedicated to environmental issues. Over two weeks, more than 100,000 delegates gathered at this event, including representatives of states, ministers, technical specialists, scientists, representatives of civil society, and the private sector. More than 600 conferences were held, including about 160 on food sector issues. A particularly notable day was dedicated to agriculture, during which more than 160 conferences were held in one day. As a result of this conference, a declaration was adopted, outlining goals for sustainable development of the food sector. The importance of livestock for sustainable development and the importance of animal protein in a balanced and healthy diet were highlighted. Despite the fact that some vegan organizations and animal rights activists remain critical of our sector, key organizations such as the FAO and other global organizations recognize the importance of livestock and its socio-economic significance. More than a billion people worldwide are employed in livestock farming, with 80% at the base level depending on livestock farming to support their families. It is important that this is recognized and taken into account, which is why the approach to our sector is changing. Important organizations understand the need to support the livestock sector, calling for the implementation of technologies and systems that will allow us to produce environmentally friendly products and ensure their safety and quality. This is significant progress compared to the beginning of "COP28" twenty years ago when the livestock sector faced hostility. Now, public opinion is generally more favorable, and only a few demand the disappearance of our sector.

What other global problems and challenges does the dairy industry face today?

Global problems and challenges facing the dairy industry today include issues related to food safety and quality, as well as the underappreciated role of dairy products in balanced nutrition. It is important to maintain the license to produce in this context. One of the main problems is the need to continue cost-effective production, considering the constant increase in production costs for farmers. The cost of production is rising faster than the price of products, putting pressure on farmers and processors. In my opinion, food products worldwide are undervalued. The production of milk, cheese, and meat is very labor-intensive but is insufficiently paid worldwide.

Another problem for the dairy sector is the 20% increase in animal protein consumption over the next 20 years, which represents a growth of 1% per year. It is projected that demand in the dairy sector will grow by 2.5% annually according to Rabo Bank, while production is only increasing by 1.5% per year. The main challenge is the need for sustainable production, increasing production, and reducing costs. Rabo Bank's forecast for last year assumed a gap between supply and demand of 20 million tons per year by 2030. However, due to the slowdown in supply growth in the European Community and the lack of exports from Belarus, Ukraine, and other countries, this gap has increased from 20 million to 33 million tons by 2030. Thus, it is expected that the gap between production and demand will reach 33 million tons of milk equivalent. According to Rabo Bank, the main task is to eliminate this gap by increasing milk production. However, it is unclear whether this will be possible. Failure to do so could lead to price increases, which could negatively impact farmers in the short term.

What is the role and plans of IDF in addressing these issues?

We aim to expand our cooperation with international organizations so that IDF can unite more countries. In this context, we invite Kazakhstan to participate. We hope that Kazakhstan and other countries in the region will become part of IDF, as it is important to unite to solve the problems of the dairy sector. IDF brings together leading experts from across the dairy chain. Highly qualified technical specialists and professors from academic circles, research centers, and laboratories are present here. This allows us not only to exchange knowledge but also to grow together. I personally learn a lot in IDF, which is why I prefer to dedicate my time to this organization. Although I hold the position of president, I am first and foremost a technical specialist, and I enjoy the scientific aspect of working on a dairy farm. The lessons I learn in IDF are priceless.

What are the requirements for Central Asian countries to join IDF?

A country interested in joining IDF can do so through its national committee. The national committee is a coalition of stakeholders in the dairy industry, such as processors and farmers, formed into a single organization representing the country's dairy industry interests. To join IDF, an application must be submitted, and if the interests of the dairy sector are adequately represented, your application will be considered.

Additionally, you can nominate your technical specialists to IDF's permanent committees. Technical specialists from your country can be members of permanent committees on various aspects of the dairy industry, such as the environment, dairy technologies, and analysis methodologies. It is important to note that all milk and dairy product analysis methodologies are developed by IDF. For example, laboratories use methods for determining protein content, fatty acids, and other indicators developed by IDF. If you need more detailed information about joining IDF, we can arrange a consultation with representatives of the dairy industry in Kazakhstan. In different countries, the national committee may be based in the office of the relevant association or organization; for example, in Italy, the national committee is based in the main office of Assolate, which represents the dairy industry and cooperatives. Within national committees, regular meetings are held to discuss current issues and cooperation. IDF also regularly holds offline meetings, including World Dairy Summits twice a year, as well as numerous online meetings to advance work on developing standards and other aspects of its activities.

How much do we have to pay for membership?

Italy is a large country, so the cost of membership is around 50,000 euros per year, but this amount is paid by the entire dairy industry. Thus, all participants contribute 100 euros each, resulting in a total of 50,000 euros. However, special conditions and significant discounts are available for small and developing countries, which are significantly different from those for large countries such as India, the United States, Italy, Germany, France, and others. For Kazakhstan, the cost will be significantly lower—about five to six times lower.

What are the benefits of participation?

There are huge benefits, as you have direct access to publications, but you also participate in shaping the content of the publications. Your technical specialists interact with colleagues around the world and also work with scientists from universities such as Yale University in the United States, Wageningen University in the Netherlands, the University of Padua in Italy, and technical specialists in dairy farm production in America. IDF brings together all sectors, ensuring maximum interaction and knowledge exchange.

Mr. Brazzale, thank you for the interesting interview. We look forward to meeting you and your presentation at the Dairy Olympics 2024 in Ankara, Turkey.
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