The demand for dairy products is rising steeply in developing countries with increasing per capita incomes, in particular in Asia and Latin America. In contrast consumption is relatively static in developed countries. Only about 6% of global milk production is traded with the European Union (EU) being the major exporter, followed by New Zealand and Australia.
A conceptual model of driving force, state and response (DSR) is used to describe the dynamic in which research agendas have to be set within the milk production and consumption environment. Two countries with contrasting dairy industries, Mexico and the United Kingdom (UK) are discussed in relation to the DSR model and the implications for their research agendas. Mexico is a large importer of milk powder and has a milk production industry which consists of predominantly small- to medium-sized farms in a range of climatic regions, with poor farmer to consumer infrastructure. The UK has a well developed industry from farmer to consumer but has problems of milk quota restrictions, declining subsidies and the impact of BSE. Consumer demand in Mexico is in general for more dairy products at competitive prices, whereas in the UK, consumer demand is declining and there is a greater emphasis on food safety, animal welfare and environmental implications of dairying. Consequently the research agendas for the two countries have to be different.
In both countries, researchers dominate the research agendas, having a substantial influence on research priorities and the topics and modes of research. If the problems relating to the milk production and consumption environment are to be addressed, the relevant stakeholders within the DSR model need to be participants in setting research agendas. This should lead to less inappropriate research being carried out and to improved adoption pathways. Participatory approaches to research agendas involve stakeholders both in the prioritization of research and in its implementation.