Iida Alasentie and Silvia Gaiani
The Finnish SmartDairy team with the lead of Ruralia Institute organised a Stakeholder Workshop for the Finnish dairy stakeholders on 8th of March 2023. Many of the participants were experts in research and development but also several dairy company representatives and advisors of food and dairy companies took part in the workshop. In total 14 participants were involved in the 2-hour long online workshop that held the title “How can Finland reach a climate-smart dairy culture?”.
In the workshop three main topics were discussed in smaller groups. The first group focused on the challenges and opportunities in developing a climate-smart dairy system. The second group discussed climate-smart dairy products and how the food cultural role of dairy may change in the future. Strategies to reach a climate-smart dairy culture was the topic of the third discussion group.
The discussion in the workshop was active and as expected the climate-smartness of the dairy sector aroused a variety of viewpoints and arguments. Participants recognized many of the challenges of the sector related to the profitability of dairy production and the difficulties in the transition to climate-smart solutions as the system is heavily relaying on the local producer network with limited capacity to invest to new sustainable innovations. At the same time, many opportunities were seen in climate-smart solutions especially if supported by political guidelines and incentives.
The powerful role of the Finnish dairy companies in the national food system is supported by the high consumption of dairy products in Finland. Participants in the workshop recognized that consumers also have significant role in the shift towards more climate-smart dairy consumption. Dairy companies pointed out their own role not only as producers of consumer products but also as “job providers” for the dairy producers. For instance, one of the companies has published a handbook of “good cultivation practices” for small-scale milk producers to support climate-smart actions at the farm level. Many Finnish dairy companies have also expanded their product selection to plant-based alternatives to milk products, in particular oat-based drinks. This spurred a conversation about whether in the future dairy products may have a role as high-quality luxury products.
There was growing concern among the stakeholders regarding the financial support producers receive as it may not be sufficient to find innovative solutions and make dairy farms more climate-smart. The generational change among producers was seen as one driver of the development in the Finnish dairy system. Many of the participants shared a vision in which a combination of active interaction between stakeholders and supportive policy guidelines helps the dairy sector to develop climate-smart strategic solutions.
In addition to the workshop held in March, individual stakeholders are interviewed to collect additional data on the challenges and opportunities in the Finnish dairy sector. The results of this work package will be shared later in the project!