The future of the thick milky tea, synonymous with Amrutulyas — the traditional tea stalls of Pune and Mumbai — may be at stake, as stall owners say the recent decision to ban the sale of buffalo for slaughter would affect their milk supply. Dairy owners in Maharashtra, who mostly use buffalo milk to make by-products such as khoya, ghee or cream, fear this ban would affect their business as well.
On Friday, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, in an official Government Resolution (GR) included the buffalo in the list of animals which cannot be sold for slaughter in cattle markets. The GR, which is aimed at regulation of animal markets to prevent animal cruelty, has issued a series of recommendations which need to be followed.
The full cream milk of buffalo is used specifically for certain products, such as the piping hot cup of tea in the Amrutulyas, as well as khoya, the basic raw material for gulab jamun. Buffalo milk is considered an important ingredient for the dairy industry in the state.
Ajit Vora, president of the Amrutulya Association of Pune, said traditional tea makers prefer buffalo milk for brewing the tea due to its richer cream content. There are about 450 Amrutulyas operational in Pune and they procure between 10-50 litres of milk per day. “We have tie-ups with buffalo owners who provide us milk,’ he said. On the recent ban, Vora said it is bound to hit the milk supply. “If not today, it will be affect the supply in the months to come,” he said.
On an average, 2 lakh buffaloes are slaughtered for meat in Maharashtra, which are mostly procured from cattle markets. The old, infirm and non-productive animals are sold for slaughter, with farmers using the money to invest in new animals. In case this cycle is disrupted, farmers saddled with non-productive animals would find it difficult to maintain milk supply to the market. Dr Vivek Ksheersagar, managing director of the Pune District Cooperative Milk Producers Union, which sells dairy products under the Katraj brand, said this ban would affect their by-products. Of the 1.5 lakh litres of milk procured by the dairy per day, about 10,000-15,000 litres is buffalo milk. “We use it to make khoya and other byproducts. Any move which affects the economy of the farmer will affect us,” he said.
The Kolhapur District Cooperative Milk Union — the dairy which markets under the Gokul brand — usually has the highest procurement of buffalo milk in the region. D V Ghanekar, managing director of the Union, said of the 10 lakh litres of milk they procure, around 50 per cent is buffalo milk. “This might not be directly related to milk collection but anything which affects the farmer will affect us. We need to see how this pans out,” he said.