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With 20% of agriculture output value, milk overtakes foodgrains

Today, not only does the White Revolution’s contribution to farm incomes surpass that of the Green Revolution, but every fifth rupee generated in the farm sector — which includes the total output value of crops livestock produce and fisheries  — comes from milk.

Written by Harish Damodaran | New Delhi | Updated: October 23, 2017 8:46 am
Milk, Agriculture sector, Foodgrains, Milk production, White Revolution, cattle farming, india drought, agriculture ministry, Indian Express For the first time, the value of milk produced exceeded the total value of foodgrains.

Which is India’s No. 1 farm crop by value? Rice (paddy) or wheat? Wrong. The answer is milk.

According to the Central Statistics Office’s (CSO) detailed crop-wise estimates of the value of output from agriculture and allied sectors, the country’s farmers produced milk worth Rs 4,95,841 crore in 2014-15.

For the first time, the value of milk produced exceeded the total value of foodgrains (cereals plus pulses), which stood at Rs 4,86,846 crore, and was way above paddy at Rs 2,26,481 crore or wheat at Rs 1,28,998 crore, according to latest figures released this month.

It wasn’t like this even 15 years ago. In 1999-2000, the value of milk production, at Rs 88,092 crore, was not even two-thirds of cereals at Rs 1,34,096 crore, although it was more than that of paddy at Rs 70,416 crore and wheat at Rs 46,224 crore.

Today, not only does the White Revolution’s contribution to farm incomes surpass that of the Green Revolution, but every fifth rupee generated in the farm sector — which includes the total output value of crops livestock produce and fisheries  — comes from milk.

The value of any crop is arrived at by multiplying its output with corresponding prices received by producers at the farmgate or the nearest primary market during the peak arrival period.

There are three broad reasons why milk’s place in Indian agriculture, and the fact that it is the biggest crop by value, has gone relatively unrecognised or unnoticed.

The first is the inability to see milk as a “crop”, since it is harvested not from the fields, but from animals. This, despite the dairy farmer in reality growing fodder and aggregates agricultural residues, with the cow or buffalo simply converting these into milk.

Second, milk — unlike paddy, wheat or sugarcane — is harvested and marketed not in quintals, but litres. Also, farmers sell milk round the year, which isn’t the case with normal field crops. Their harvesting and marketing is a conspicuous one-time annual event, even commemorated through festivals such as Makar Sankranti, Thai Pongal and Baisakhi.

Milk, Agriculture sector, Foodgrains, Milk production, White Revolution, cattle farming, india drought, agriculture ministry, Indian Express

Third, policymakers have always viewed dairying as an activity “subsidiary” to regular agriculture. This may partly have to do with the animals mostly being fed on the by-products of crop agriculture: wheat and paddy straw, sugarcane tops, and the protein-rich cake left after extraction of oil from mustard, groundnut or cottonseed. But the fact that milk has overtaken even foodgrains in terms of production value — and there is a trend towards farmers taking to full-time dairying and devoting their land exclusively for fodder cultivation — clearly is at odds with the official view.

But the 21st century transformation of Indian agriculture isn’t confined just to milk.

The CSO data reveals the value of fruits and vegetables production, too, crossing that of cereals; this again happened for the first time in 2014-15. Between 1999-2000 and 2014-15, the value of horticultural produce has gone up more than five times. It has risen even more – by six times and seven times, respectively – for fish (nearly 60 per cent of which is now coming from inland, as opposed to marine waters) and meat (from poultry, goat and sheep, buffalo and cattle, and pig). Fifteen years ago, the individual output values of meat and fish were lower than that of sugarcane and gur. But that has since reversed (see chart).

All these trends are ultimately a reflection of dietary diversification. If farmers are producing more of milk, fruits and vegetables, egg, fish and meat, they are only responding to signals from consumers who are increasingly demanding food richer in proteins and nutrients. It is another matter that government policy is still stuck in the 20th century, not progressing much beyond cereals and calories.

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    Dr Lalremliana
    Oct 23, 2017 at 3:26 pm
    Interesting indeed. Can anybody enlighten us on the total expenditure of Government on Agriculture and on Dairy. However, we must not forget the fact that Agriculture and Animal Husbandry have to co-exist and a right balance have to be maintained between the two in terms of funding and other inputs.
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    1. S
      Sabyasachi Paldas
      Oct 23, 2017 at 1:34 pm
      A very interesting article. More interesting factors may emerge if we can see how much area is required to produce the same, so value/area. So, if somebody can figure out how much 'space' do cattle need to produce this milk - e.g. cowshed grazing meadow area required for making hay etc. vis-a-vis, say, 'space' (hectares) devoted to producing cereals. Am not sure, but I have a gut feeling that value generated/area for cereals will be among the lowest in the list. It will be interesting if a follow-up article can be written on this.
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      1. Sohan L Khungar
        Oct 23, 2017 at 7:57 am
        One reason for increased milk usage is the rapid rise of pizza consumption, because 10 kg of milk yields 1 kg of cheese used in pizza.
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        1. arun
          Oct 23, 2017 at 7:43 am
          Subsidized cereals for poor and other food products for better off population. We now need to give some of other items to poor at subsidized rates to tackle malnutrition. So PDS has to start doing it.
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            ak
            Oct 23, 2017 at 10:19 am
            How about investing in the infrastructure and productivity of the people (i,e rapid industralization, encourage people moving out of Villages to towns and cities so they can be more productively employed) etc. so that the poor's of india become middle class and can afford food at market prices ? Why do we always go for BAND AIDS and not at permanent solutions ? Investment in education, infrastructure, factories, and towns and cities and encouraging low cost housing is imperative. Money given for consumption is wasted either in one time consumption or corruption. Imagine you had 1 lac rupees. Will you use the money to buy milk and consume or invest in your child's education .. In our country, the governement favors short term consumption (i,e Subsidies) compared to investment. So the poor guys son/daughter will also be poor. This is the reason we are poor.
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            Kumar
            Oct 23, 2017 at 7:38 am
            It is an encouraging news. However, I would like to see the day when Indian milk would find market in Africa and other countries where they consume imported dry (powdered) milk from other countries. There is a great market which Indian govt and farmers should try to capture. Milk from cows, buffaloes and the milk products can fetch much more money and is much healthier than meat from these animals. Moreover, cow milk has cons uencies close to human mother's milk which is the best food for a child up to age 18 to 20 months. That is why Indian forefathers emphasized on protecting and respecting (not worshiping) cows. Cow excreta is very good natural fertilizer. Thus the milk production can be combined with green farming (without chemical fertilizer) if planned well.
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