Though its World Milk Day on Monday, there is no cheer for dairy farm owners in Punjab as their business has taken a huge hit amid the Covid-19 lockdown.
They rue that first the lockdown, and then the migrant exodus broke the back of the dairy industry.
Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (GADVASU)’s extension education director Harsh Vema said that with a production of three crore litres of milk a day, the state is the highest producer of milk in the country.
Milk-driven industries such as tea, coffee, sweets, chocolates and ice-creams also remained closed due to lockdown, which added to the losses.
Haibowal Dairy Complex Association chairman Paramjit Singh Bobby said the migrant population and roadside tea sellers formed a significant chunk of milk consumers. Also, fewer wedding functions and closing of offices and shops hit the dairy sale badly.
“This caused heavy losses to the dairy business. We demand that the rates should be revised from ₹6.50 to ₹7 per kg to revive the dairy farming industry. By June 11, the rates will be revised. There may be an increase of ₹2 per litre,” said Bobby.
Butta Singh, a dairy farmer who is rearing 30 buffaloes, said that earlier, there was a huge demand for paneer at sweet shops.
“Further, paneer and curd used to be sold in wedding functions. However, due to the lockdown, there was no sale for nearly two months. The government has given some relaxation, but the business has not picked up fully. Currently, I need to buy fodder but I have run out of cash. It is time that the government should do something to save the industry,” he said.
DS Hans, deputy director, Dairy Development Board, said dairy products are in heavy demand during the wedding season. However, due to the lockdown, sales plummetted.
The milk collection was increased from 4 lakh to 7 lakh litre per day to save the farmers from running into financial crisis. Further, eight milk processing units, which were closed, were also opened within 10 days of the lockdown.
“We have enough stock of ghee and skimmed milk and are hoping that government agencies will pick it soon,” Hans said.