Dairy farmers in distress as milk prices crash

Dairy farmers in some parts of Madhya Pradesh, particularly Morena and Bhind districts, have been protesting the steep cut in purchase prices.

The steep cuts, effected by private diaries, which have collection centres across the district, would knock off more than ₹5,000 from the monthly income of Singh, who has three buffaloes.

“There have been protests by farmers in Morena as well as in several parts of Bhind and Gwalior districts since December 20 as they are getting a lower price for the milk that they supply collection centres,” said Ashok Tiwari, Madhya Pradesh Kisan Sabha General Secretary. “They have reduced prices all over the State. The agitation started in Morena and later spread to Bhind and Gwalior districts,” he said.

Rs. Sodhi, Managing Director, Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation, said that milk purchase prices have been falling drastically in many States since last month.

“As private dairies have stopped buying milk, milk cooperative societies in States such as Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are getting 20-30 per cent more than what they normally procure,” he said.

The commencement of flush season since the onset of winter has aggravated the situation, with farmers bringing more milk to collection centres.
Too much milk

As a result, cooperative societies in many of these States are flooded with milk. “Even though co-operative societies haven’t reduced purchase prices much, they are not in a position to buy more milk from farmers,” Sodhi said.

Private traders are exploiting the farmers’ plight, just as they have with onion and potato farmers, who resort to distress sales. While private traders in Maharashtra pay ₹18 per litre for cow milk as against ₹27 earlier, in UP and Haryana farmers get ₹26 a litre against the earlier price of ₹40 for buffalo milk, he said.

The root of the problem, he said, lies in the crash of global commodity prices since 2015. Milk powder, which used to command $5,000 per tonne in the global market, is now being sold for $1,600-1,700. However, the fall in prices hasn’t affected export of milk products from the country.

Sodhi suggested that State governments should increase the buffer stock of milk powder to help dairy farmers.

On Tuesday,the Agriculture Ministry directed milk cooperative societies to purchase all the milk being brought to them by farmers. It also said the stock of skimmed-milk powder, which is 1.17 lakh tonnes currently, would go up to 2 lakh tonnes by March.


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