As India steps up measures to check the spread of COVID-19, the sale of dairy products such as ultra-heat treated (UHT) milk, skimmed milk powder, cheese and butter have seen an almost 20 percent rise. The increased sale is mostly because of panic buying by consumers despite authorities, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging people not to do so.
“We have noticed an almost 100 percent rise in demand on e-commerce sites with products like milk cartons, milk powder, cheese and butter leading the pack,” said RS Sodhi, managing director of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMF), which markets milk and milk products under the brand name of Amul.
Amul has also seen a 5 percent increase in the sale of its pouched milk, while product sales across counters have seen a 25-30 percent increase.
During his address to the nation on Thursday, the Prime Minister had said supply of essential commodities will not be hit. “There would not be any shortage of essential items like food, milk medicines etc. I urge people to not resort to panic buying,” he had said. But clearly panic buying has already set in.
R Chandramogan, chairman and managing director of the Chennai-headquartered dairy giant Hatsun Agro Product, said there has been a similar spike in sale of perishable commodities like milk, curd and paneer. Most dairies, however, feel this trend will not sustain for long.
Another possible factor that drove up demand is because a large section of people have been abstaining from poultry, meat and eggs. Since the first week of February, demand for chicken and eggs has taken a beating after a misinformation campaign on social media linked chicken and eggs to the spread of COVID-19. The poultry industry is estimated to have suffered a loss of around $1 billion in February and March.
Unlike other dairy products, sale of ice cream has seen a dip, which the industry again blames on a misinformation campaign. Like the poultry industry, messages on social media had linked the frozen desert with the spread of COVID-19. Rajesh Gandhi, president of Indian Ice Cream Manufacturers Association (IICMA),said March sales were down by 20 per cent.
The dip comes right at the beginning of the March-June period, when the industry reports highest sales in the year. These 100 days account for around 45 per cent of the Rs 9,000-crore sales the industry reports in a year. Gandhi pointed out that the sales dip comes at a time when the price of skimmed milk powder (SMP) — the raw material for the industry — had corrected from the Rs 330-340 per-kg range to the present Rs 280-285 per-kg range.
“We hope that the slowdown in sales is temporary and once the pandemic is brought under control, sale will pick up for the rest of the summer season,” he said.
Here’s a quick coronavirus guide for you to stay updated: Who all should be tested for Covid-19 and when? | How should you quarantine yourself? | How often (and how) should you clean your home? | What is the Janata Curfew announced by PM Modi? | Who are restricted from coming to India, and from when? | How long can the virus live on surfaces or in air around you? | Still more Coronavirus Q&A Explained news here
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines