Representational Image
Representational Image

Just a day ago, farmers’ unions held a protest demanding a rise in prices in milk and seeking a special subsidy for milk producers. Such protests are common, especially when supplies of milk increase, or demand contracts (as with Covid-19) and procurement rates drop. That causes farmers to agitate.

But in states like Maharashtra and Karnataka where clamours for subsidy are mounting, it is necessary to check whether the hike in prices reaches farmers. Why is it that farmers in Gujarat get more money for milk – without any government subsidy – while those in many other states, where politics and agriculture often go hand in hand, farmers feel exploited?

Is it the way milk cooperatives are run? Is it a tale of money diversion? Is it mismanagement? To understand why this and many other issues relating to milk call for the immediate distancing of the government from dairy farming, both SIES Colleges of Arts, Science and Commerce come together under the banner of The Future of Agriculture. This Thursday, 23 July, the topic will be ‘Milk is the real backbone of India's rural wealth?’.

While the lecture will be delivered by RN Bhaskar, consulting editor, FPJ, from 3-4 pm, the panel discussion will be from 4:15 to 5:30 pm. The panellists will be Arun Raste, executive director, NDDB, and Madan Sabnavis, chief economist, CARE Ratings.

Please click here to register.

It may be recalled that – in the 1970s – the milk revolution (Operation Flood), was started by Dr Verghese Kurien, then chairman of the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB). Kurien helped transform India from being milk deficient to becoming the world’s largest milk producer.

How far has the milk revolution succeeded? Will there be changes in the pattern of growth for the milk industry, which is the biggest contributor to agricultural wealth in India? The dairy sector is estimated to contribute over 20 per cent to the agriculture GDP of the country. It is veritably India's rural backbone.

According to NDDB data, 75 per cent of India’s small and marginal farmers have dairy animals. It is milk that supplements the nutritional and meagre financial earning from farming for small cultivators. Therefore, it is crucial to protect the interest of milk producer farmers.

While Uttar Pradesh is the highest milk-producing state, Maharashtra is among the top ten milk-producing states in the country at 7,679 tonnes in 2018-2019. However, one issue that hurts the dairy sector is a rise in supplies of milk led to losses to farmers as milk prices slump, claim milk unions.

At present, in Maharashtra, this is the result of the protest. The surplus milk was being converted into powder and butter as supplies increased in the state. Thus, the prices of milk powder had fallen from the previous levels of Rs 530 per kg to Rs 160 per kg due to increased demand. Similarly, the rates for butter had also declined to Rs 210 per kg from Rs 340 per kg. This had led to farmers not being paid for their milk, claims the union.

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Free Press Journal