A section of rural farmers in Kozhikode district in Kerala on Wednesday resorted to a “milk bath protest”, expressing disappointment over the suspension of evening milk collection by the Kerala Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (Milma) from various milk cooperative societies.
The distraught farmers, who assembled at Chundathumpoyil in Karassery panchayat, poured the collected milk over their heads to display their resentment towards the sudden decision that has put many at stake amidst a financial crisis brought on by COVID-19 lockdown.
The protesters alleged that they were dragged to an unexpected crisis with the sudden stoppage of evening collection, which was a regular source of income for many poor households to manage the lockdown blues. They also claimed that the affected farmers were struggling to find a viable alternative to manage the situation.
Meanwhile, Milma’s disappointing decision has prompted a few other sections of rural milk producers to launch ‘Milk Challenge’ as a temporary solution to overcome the unexpected financial crisis. A group of farmers from Kozhikode’s Maikavu, who worked behind the idea, said the move would encourage local households to directly purchase milk from farmers and reduce wastage. It would also be highlighted as a constructive means of protest against the Milma.
It was following the difficulties to manage the huge excess stock during the lockdown period that prompted Milma to take the extreme step and reduce the daily collection to 60 per cent. With many restaurants and other commercial establishments remaining closed, Milma was facing a commercial crisis in its overall sales as never before. The steady rise in local milk production with the newly launched dairy ventures was also found affecting the Milma’s crisis management plans.
Office-bearers of the Malabar Regional Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union under Milma said the difficulty they faced to convert the excess stock as dairy whitener with the support of Tamil Nadu-based factories was the main reason to stop the milk collection. They also made it clear that all efforts were in place to fight the temporary situation and resume the collection as usual to support the struggling farmers.
They also pointed out that the union was never unreceptive towards the demands of farmers as it stood by them in all critical situations and for the prosperity of the dairy sector. The new regulation was introduced only to surmount the unexpected challenge and to protect the Federation from steep business loss, they clarified.