Mumbai: While political parties such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and farmer leader Raju Shetti’s Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana have protested seeking an increase in milk prices for dairy farmers, the Sangh Parivar’s Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) has taken umbrage over the Centre’s decision to allow import of milk powder.
Last month, the Centre had allowed imports of 10,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder under the tariff rate quota (TRQ). Farmers’ organisations note that reduced demand for milk and milk products due to the COVID-19 lockdown and subsequent economic distress, had led to surplus milk being converted to milk powder. Excess availability of milk powder had pulled down its market prices, and the imports of milk powder from abroad will lead to further depression in rates, they claim.
“We are against the import of milk powder. On the contrary, we are seeking that exports be incentivised,” said Baliram Solanke, president of the Maharashtra unit of the BKS. He added that they had informed the Centre about their reservations on the issue.
“Imports of milk powder into the country must not be allowed, and procurement prices of milk must be hiked. Dairy farmers cannot afford existing rates. These procurement rates may vary between Rs 40 to 45 per litre across the state depending on the area,” said Solanke.
Solanke added that they had also informed the state government about problems for farmers in accessing credit even after the implementation of the farm loan waiver scheme and about the likely shortage of seeds, fertilisers and pesticides before the commencement of sowing operations.
Maharashtra’s milk production is estimated to be around 3 crore litres daily, with an around 1.10 crore to 1.40 crore litres marketable surplus. Cow's milk forms around 70% of the collection. However, demand has fallen due to the lockdown and subsequent reduction in demand due to factors like economic distress, leading to a surplus of 20 lakh litres of milk daily.
This had led to milk federations and private dairies giving farmers just around Rs 22 per litre of milk (with three units of fat and six units of solid not fats or SNF), as against the cost of production of Rs 27 to 35, which has pushed these farmers into losses.