Fonterra Brands Sri Lanka last week announced the construction of its first purpose-built demonstration and training farm in Sri Lanka is nearing completion and is slated to be officially opened by visiting New Zealand Prime Minister in late February.
Located in Pannala and costing Rs. 117 million to build and operate, the dedicated training farm is expected to function 180 days each year with a view to train around 2,000 farmers each year.
“The farm will employ administrative managers, animal care specialists and farm hands. Apart from training farmers, we hope also to welcome interns and local university students to conduct research on subjects like animal care and farm forage at the site,” Director Co-operative Affairs, Dr. Athula Kahandaliyanage said adding that the facility includes Training centre, free stall barns, Milk chilling facilities and Fodder cultivation area.
Completely funded and operated by Fonterra, the farm will share the dairy co-operative’s world-class dairy farming knowledge through farmer visits, field days, short course training and apprenticeship programmes.
Fonterra’s on-farm programme is made up of a number of key areas of focus including fodder, advanced animal nutrition, animal welfare, milk quality management and farm business management.
The dairy co-operative, which has been operating in Sri Lanka for over 38 years, said it has invested over Rs. 380 million in local dairy development over the past two years alone, and is committed to working with partners to increase milk collection, improve milk quality and lift farmer incomes.
Managing Director of Fonterra Brands Sri Lanka Leon Clement said, “We are already seeing positive change in the Sri Lankan dairy industry with the government making a meaningful difference through imported cow genetics and working with farmers. We believe we can help accelerate this change through consistent investment in training and infrastructure to improve farming practices and animal health.”
Over the next two years, Fonterra plans to build five new milk chilling centres, create an opportunity to collect milk from 2000 more farmers, Increase Supplier Relationship Officers, who are dedicated to training and education, from 20 to 40
“We also hope to build an additional three demonstration and training farms by 2017, however, to do this we will need to find the right partners and available land,” said Clement.
According to Fonterra’s statistics, while local production can only cater for around 40% of the country’s total dairy demand, demand for dairy is growing by 16% each year. The firm also believes that 44% of agricultural land in Sri Lanka is sparsely used and have greater potential for expansion.
Fonterra, which employs around 750 Sri Lankans presently and operates two manufacturing sites in Biyagama also points out that Sri Lankan farmers produce only around 3 to 4 litres of milk per cow per day compared to 25 litres per cow in countries like New Zealand.