Saturday, November 24, 2012


Milk is considered the most valuable nutritive food available to all those not consuming meat, egg and fish in their daily diet and as per the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi, "Milk and Honey" must flow in his ideally conceived "Ramarajya"! Till the arrival of that Titan late Dr Varghese  Kurien on the scene, milk availability ad libitum to Indian citizens always remained a distant dream. Now that what was considered not achievable once has been achieved through the well lauded Operation  Flood program ushered in by Dr Kurien, the country seems to be faced with a new challenge-the "problem of plenty"! Look at the report from Andhra Pradesh where over 1.7 lakh liters of excess milk collected by the state milk federation find no buyers putting the authorities in a dilemma regarding disposal of this milk. Is it not strange that in an age when technological solutions are on the table for solving any food related problems, the federation is throwing up its hands not having any clue as to how this contingency can be handled. Here is a take on this ironical situation.   

"Usually there are problems with shortages. But in the case of A.P. Dairy Development Cooperative Federation (APDDCF) the opposite is true. It is faced with the unique problem of glut of milk so much so that it doesn't know where to store all the milk that is coming its way.Everyday the Federation is left with an extra 1.70 lakh litres to handle which it simply can't. Therefore, it is toying with the idea of declaring a 'milk holiday' once in a fortnight.The idea is not to procure milk two days in a month so as to take care of storage problem and also the rising cost of procurement. The proposal will be placed before the APDDCF board to get its nod. The last time the Federation declared a milk holiday was in 1993. The APDDCF has been flooded with surplus milk from September onwards. The per day procurement shot up from 3.90 lakh litres in August to 4.69 lakh litres in September. It touched 5.27 lakh litres in October and 5.93 lakh litres in November. In December, milk procurement is projected to be 6.29 lakh litres. Faced with this unusual phenomenon, the Federation has started converting the excess milk into skimmed milk powder (SMP). "We are doing all this only to not inconvenience farmers," says Mohammed Ali Rafath, managing director and vice chairman, APDDCF. Unlike private diaries, the APDDCF is procuring milk beyond its requirement to help the farmers. Its factory has a capacity to handle only 4 lakh litres a day, including 30,000 litres of by-products such as flavoured milk, butter, khova, lassi. In the last few months it has been getting an extra 1.70 lakh litres milk per day. Of this, 1.02 lakh litres is buffalo milk and the rest cow. To procure this excess milk, it has to shell out Rs.41 lakh per day. To tide over the problem, the APDDCF has started converting the milk into powder and now it has a stock of 1,000 metric tonnes of butter and 800 metric tonnes of skimmed milk powder. To clear this stockpile, the Federation has asked the Women Development and Child Welfare Department to use its powder milk in its programme of supplying cooked food to pregnant and lactating mothers. "This way we hope to supply 100 tonnes of skimmed milk powder per month", says Mr. Rafath. The excess milk production is the result of milch animal induction programme wherein the government provides 25 per cent subsidy on purchase of cattle and also reimburses transport charges. Another factor is the vigorous artificial insemination programme taken up by the Animal Husbandry Department. Why can't the APDDCF push up its sales? It cannot because there are no takers for its Vijay brand of milk. While Hyderabad has a liquid milk market of 12 lakh litres a day, APDDCF accounts for just 3.60 lakh litres a day. Now the APDDCF is planning to develop forward linkages by strengthening its district market where the sales are very dismal".

One of the objectives of Operation Flood was to create a milk grid with the avowed intention of helping to create a linkage between the production hubs and consumption centers. Why the Andhra milk federation is not able to make use of this to send milk to those places suffering from shortage or sending it to milk processing centers having powder making facilities is not clearly understood. It is unfortunate that the country is failing again its farmers after the food grain fiasco for which the Supreme Court had to intervene to stop rotting of procured grains, improperly stored. The federation boast that after all it is procuring all the milk offered by its farmers, cannot justify its incompetence in anticipating such a glut and making contingency arrangements to handle the surplus. Look at the sorry situation in the market where major milk powder consumers are frantically running around for securing their requirements of milk powder when country is the top most producer of fluid milk in the world!. What prevented the Federations in the states from building adequate powder making capacity to meet such eventualities? Apathy and callousness? In stead of taking fluid milk to far away villages why it is not possible to create a supply channel for milk powder at affordable prices to consumers located at such places. It is time National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) is mandated once more by Government of India, this time to deal with the surplus and bring some sanity to the sector.


No comments: