Ravindra Prasad Singh (55) of Rautania under Marwan block in Muzaffarpur district produces more than 300kg/litre of milk per day at his dairy. Singh said even the Muzaffarpur dairy firm refused to buy his milk saying it already had surplus supply. “I have to distribute the milk among the villagers for free,” he said.
Ranjan Kumar (40), who owns a milk processing unit at Muzaffarpur, said the procurement of milk has reduced from 25,000 to 8000 litres per day during the lockdown. “There is no buyer in the market as people remain indoors,” he said.
Gupteshwar Mishra (60) of Samastipur district said it is a double whammy for milk producers. “We are facing shortage of fodder for the cattle and there are hardly any takers of milk even at reduced prices, leading to acute financial constraints,” Mishra said.
If a khatal owner of Vaishali is to be believed, many centres have stopped milk procurement from farmers not enrolled with them. “Most of the time they ask to visit the collection centre next day. On being pestered, they procure milk from unregistered farmers three days in a week,” said a milk producer of Raghopur diara, requesting anonymity.
Bihar State Milk Cooperative Federation Limited (Comfed) authorities said milk procurement at all the eight cooperative samitis across the state has increased from an average 11 lakh kg/litre per day to 15.92 lakh kg/litre per day since the lockdown was invoked from March 25. They attributed the reason for rise in milk procurement to disappearance of private players in the field.
“Those who earlier supplied milk to some private processing units have also started contributing to the state cooperative samitis. The excess milk procured at these centres is being used in manufacturing dry milk powder and pouches,” said Comfed managing director Rajiv Verma.
He admitted that the sale of milk and milk products has reduced by 25-30% post lockdown. Around 12.5 lakh families of milk producers (read farmers) were linked to the cooperatives samitis. “As large quantity of milk is now being used for manufacturing dry milk powder and pouches, our working capital of around Rs150 crore has been blocked,” he added.
The Comfed officials are apprehensive of more trouble in the days to come if the lockdown continued for long.
Minister reviews situation: State agriculture minister Prem Kumar, who is holding additional charge of animal husbandry and fisheries department, reviewed the situation in the state milk cooperative samitis with the senior officers of the department and functionaries of milk producers’ union on Friday. When contacted, Prem said, “We are trying to help Comfed by providing financial aide through the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC). We have sought Rs234 crore loan from
NCDC for Comfed to deal with the unprecedented situation. In addition, the state government has decided to provide Rs26.34 crore as loan to Comfed for cattle feed. Several other measures have also been taken to streamline the sale of milk and milk products.”
To help the farmers, around 1300 automatic machines are being installed at milk procurement centres. The minister said procurement of milk has increased from 21 lakh litres per day to around 24 lakh litres during the lockdown.