While the State government is keen on reducing daily deficit to achieve self-sufficiency in milk production, soaring cattle feed cost has thrown dairy farmers into distress.
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The abrupt price rise following COVID-19 and the current Russia-Ukraine war has triggered alarms in the sector and the farmers say they are facing an unprecedented crisis.

“There has been a 30 to 40% hike in cattle feed prices of late, leading to an escalation of production cost. We are also facing a scarcity of fodder grass and paddy straw causing additional hardship to the farmers. While feed prices are skyrocketing, milk prices have remained same for the last three years. Without immediate government intervention the farmers can’t survive,” said Thaj Mansoor, general secretary, Malabar Dairy Farmers’ Association.

Though there were projects providing subsidised feed to farmers, none of them were adequate, he said. “They is no system in the State that offers regular subsidies and most projects implemented through the local bodies are insufficient to support the sector,” he said.

Podiyan, a 62-year-old dairy farmer from Alappuzha, had to sell his eight cows during the last six months. At present, he is awaiting a buyer for his ninth and last cow to settle the outstanding balance of the feed supplier.

“I have been in this field for the last 40 years and we have never fallen on such hard times. My family had tested positive during the pandemic and for 45 days we had to dump large quantities of milk. We started accumulating debt and with the recent price hike, there is no hope left,” he said.

According to farmers, the average production cost of a litre of milk is over ₹40 and they are forced to sell it for ₹35. “A sack of quality feed now costs around ₹1,500 and there has been an increase of ₹200 a sack during the last couple of months. Even Kerala Feeds Limited (KFL) hiked the price some six months back and at present you need to pay ₹1,200 for wheat bran. There is a lot of hard work involved in maintaining a cattle shed and taking care of the cows. It used to be profitable livelihood, but right now we are left with nothing but heavy losses. The government should either increase the milk price or offer us a steady incentive,” said Thilakan, a dairy farmer from Kannur.

One of the last working dairy farms on Ukrainian-controlled territory in the eastern Donbas region is doing everything it can to stay afloat in a place where neither workers nor animals are safe from war.

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