On the same day the Maharashtra government announced a Rs 3 per litre subsidy for dairies producing skimmed milk powder (SMP), dairy farmers in the state vowed to continue their protest. “Dairies which produce 20 per cent extra SMP than their normal per month production will be eligible for the subsidy,” Minister for Animal Husbandry, Dairy Development and Fisheries, Mahadev Jankar, told The Indian Express.
The minister said the subsidy, which will be given for a month, will cost the state exchequer Rs 32.72 crore. The minister said the state currently has 26,506.70 metric tonnes of SMP. The subsidy has been rejected by the dairy industry as well as the protesting farmers. General secretary of All India Kisan Sabha, Ajit Nawale, and farmer leader Dhanajay Dhorde said they will continue their agitation as the subsidy will not ensure better prices for farmers.
Since May 3, dairy farmers in Maharashtra had started distributing milk free of cost to protest against the low procurement prices paid to them by the dairies.
The dairies, on the other hand, cited the global slump in SMP prices, a glut in milk production and taxation on byproducts as reasons for the low procurement prices. Most dairies in the state have been paying between Rs 19 and 22 per litre to farmers for 3.5 per cent fat and 8.5 per cent Solid Not Fat milk. To make matters worse, milk production in Maharashtra has increased at a time when it normally reports a dip. As against the 1.24 crore litres of daily collection reported last year, the state is reporting around 1.5 crore litres of daily collection.
Cooperative union Gokul and Swabhimani Dairy, both in Kolhapur, have been paying dairy farmers Rs 25 per litre.
The protesting farmers have been demanding payment of Rs 27 per litre, the price declared by the state government last year after farmers had gone on strike in the first week of June.
Rajiv Mitra, managing director of Phaltan-based Govind milk and milk products, said the subsidy was too low to provide tangible benefits to farmers. “A long-term solution is necessary to address the issue,” he said. Vinayakrao Patil, chairman of Maharashtra Union of Cooperative Dairies, said the step taken by the government has failed to address the real issue. “It doesn’t look like a well-researched decision,” he said.
The cooperative dairies are going to hold a meeting in Pune on May 10 to discuss their next step.