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More dairy cooperatives will guarantee milk safety: experts

By Xu Wei | China Daily | Updated: 2014-02-20 07:43

Experts and government officials have called for the further development of dairy farmers' cooperatives in China to ensure the safety of dairy products and protect farmers' interests.

Establishing dairy farmers' cooperatives can facilitate tracing dairy products and improving their quality, Zheng Xinli, vice-chairman of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said at a seminar in Beijing on Wednesday.

Zheng, who is also the former deputy director of the Policy Research Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said the country's dairy industry can learn from its counterparts in the Netherlands, where farmers are shareholders in agricultural cooperatives.

"We need to reflect on why farmers are showing such indifference to the quality of their products. Why not establish an interest mechanism so that they will pay more attention to product quality?" he said.

Zheng said that currently, farmers and agricultural companies are market rivals. "If companies offer low prices during the milk collection process, farmers will suffer losses and vice versa," he said.

China's dairy industry was hit hard after a scandal in 2008 in which dairy farmers were found to have added melamine to raw milk to make it appear to have a higher protein content. The incident left at least 300,000 babies sickened and six dead.

Zheng said a cooperative can link the interests of farmers and agricultural enterprises. "Farmers can become shareholders of agricultural enterprises through cooperatives, and they could also gain profits through dividends of companies' profits," he said.

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