Danish firm to export dairy expertise to Africa

Danish company SEGES is set to take advantage of new business opportunities in North Africa by helping the Tunisian dairy industry improve its milk production.

Danish firm to export dairy expertise to Africa
The average herd size on Tunisian farms is three cows, compared to the 164 recorded in Denmark in 2013. Photo: Oli/Flickr

SEGES has agreed a deal, supported by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, to lend its expertise to the Tunisian dairy industry in order to improve the North African country’s milk production.

High summer temperatures and poor hygiene in stables are key obstacles that must be overcome by the Tunisian producers, who will now be advised by SEGES along with Denmark’s state food regulatory body, Fødevarestyrelsen.

A government grant of 20 million kroner (USD 2.95 million) will support the program, with goals including the creation of new jobs in Tunisia, according to a report by DR.

“After the Arab Spring, new opportunities are needed for young people, along with development of the country,” project leader Jørgen Korning told DR.

The specific tasks that SEGES will assist with include ensuring that milk is kept at the correct temperature during transportation from farms to dairies, as well as ensuring high fat and protein content.

“Small farms are not able to afford refrigeration equipment, so we are looking at whether several can pool together to purchase a unit, so that we can set up a ‘cooling chain’ all the way from dairy to farmer,” said Korning.

“There is a larger market in Tunisian, and milk and milk products are currently imported from the EU, so there is certainly potential for milk production.”

The average herd size on Tunisian farms is three cows, compared to an average of 164 recorded in Denmark in 2013, according to the DR report.


Will Denmark see the return of mink farms in 2022?

After all mink breeders were last year forced by the government to close down their farms, discussions are beginning on whether the industry could return in 2022.

Will Denmark see the return of mink farms in 2022?
A mink at a North Jutland fur farm in August 2020. Photo: Henning Bagger/BAG/Ritzau Scanpix

All fur farm minks in Denmark were culled late last year and the practice banned until 2022 after an outbreak of Covid-19 in the animals at several farms led to concerns over mutations of the virus.

The mink industry was subsequently given a gigantic compensation package worth up to 18.8 billion kroner.

Parliament’s environment and food committee will meet on Tuesday to discuss whether to extend the current ban or allow the industry to return. Political negotiations were scheduled to take place following an orientation published the same day by the State Serum Institute (SSI), Denmark’s national infectious disease agency.

In a statement released on Tuesday morning, SSI maintained an earlier risk assessment that mink breeding constitutes an health risk of “unknown proportions” for humans in Denmark.

READ ALSO: Danish PM Frederiksen to be questioned over Covid-19 mink culls

The assessment, made by the agency in June, remains the position held by SSI, the infectious disease agency said.

“It is the general assessment of the State Serum Institute that breeding of mink in Denmark after 2021 could constitute a health risk for humans of unknown proportions,” the June assessment stated.

Three key risk factors were identified by SSI in June:

  • Breakthrough Covid-19 infections in vaccinated mink breeders and skinners
  • The potential of mink farms to act as an “infection reservoir” where the virus can continue to survive
  • Emergence of new Covid-19 mutations in the animals and their spread to humans

The SSI assessment was solely concern with potential risk to humans, and did not have the task of considering safety measures for reopening farms.

Prior to the release of SSI’s statement on Tuesday, the interest organisation for the mink fur breeding industry, Danske Mink, criticised the appraisal made by the agency in June.

The formulation of the assessment was imprecise and “quite erroneous”, Danske Mink chairperson Louise Simonsen said.

The earlier orientation did not give an accurate representation “both with the number of animals and with the vaccination situation,” Simonsen argued.

Around 1,000 mink farms operated in Denmark at the time the industry was shut down.

Simonsen, in comments prior to Tuesday’s SSI statement, said she was uncertain how many were likely to restart their shuttered breeding grounds.

“We’ve had several messages from breeders who want to start up. But that number won’t stabilise until we know what we’re looking forward to,” she said.

The Conservative Party said through its spokesperson Per Larsen that SSI should have conducted a “risk assessment using groups of, for example, 50,000 or 100,000 minks” to see how “vaccinated mink, vaccinated staff and weekly testing could work”.

“Saying there’s a risk of unknown proportions is of no use whatsoever. It could mean nothing or many things,”” Larsen said.