A large number of our microfinance clients were investing in cattle, and in doing so were being exposed to risk owing to poor breeding, limited veterinary services, shortages in cow feed and lack of market access. Some of these challenges were addressed through social enterprises such as BRAC artificial insemination and BRAC Feed Mills. Still, the perishable nature of dairy products meant it remained difficult for rural dairy farmers to reach the large urban markets and the demand for milk in a single village was not enough to generate a sustainable profit. Dairy farmers also did not have access to proper refrigeration technologies to store the unsold milk. Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of BRAC, noticed this problem and proposed establishing a milk processing plant to collect milk from local farmers for a fair price. As a result, BRAC initiated BRAC dairy & food project (BDFP) in 1998 to serve as a market conduit for dairy farmers throughout rural Bangladesh.
BDFP’s original mission was to secure market access for dairy farmers, ultimately helping them generate income. Over time, BDFP’s goal has expanded to include serving high quality milk product to their customers. With inconsistent electricity and therefore refrigeration, dairy products generally are not widely available in Bangladesh. 80 per cent of Bangladesh still relies on the ‘informal’ milk market which delivers bulk amounts of raw milk to consumers. BDFP caters to the 20 per cent of Bangladeshis who rely on the formal milk market which sells processed and packaged milk. In essence, BDFP channels milk from rural areas into urban areas while channelling the revenue into rural areas.
Today, BRAC dairy not only secures fair prices for its rural dairy farmers, but has also expanded to offer cattle development and technical training, vaccination, feed cultivation facilities and other services. BRAC dairy was the first dairy company in Bangladesh to have received ISO 22000 Certification, setting an example of vigilance at every stage of dairy production, processing, and distribution contributing to dairy products’ safety record. Through its 101 chilling centres, BRAC dairy collects milk from more than 50,000 registered farmers and sells them nationwide through is under the Aarong dairy brand.
When BDFP first started, it produced 140,000 litres of milk per day. As of now, it has the processing capacity of 250,000 litres of milk per day engaging approximately 1500 employee, making it one of the largest BRAC enterprises.