Dairies in Maharashtra are grappling with a shortage of milk at a time when milk production is supposed to be excess.
On an average, the state is facing a 20 per cent shortage in milk, which dairy farmers say will get acute as the summer sets in. Consumers, they added, may soon have face a rise in milk prices.
September and February are usually the flush season, when animals naturally produce excess milk, which goes down by March. However, this year, the flush season too will have to face a 20 per cent cut in milk procurement.
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Vinayakrao Patil, director of Mahananda, said instead of normal collection of 1 crore litres, the state is witnessing collection of around 80 lakh liters of milk every day. “This is a fallout of the drought of the last two years, along with poaching of milk by outstation dairies,” he said.
Mahananda is the apex body of cooperative dairies.
During a drought year, when fodder is not easily available, farmers tend to overlook non-productive animals, or selling animals, for easy money.
Reduction in herd goes unnoticed immediately but the effects start manifesting after a year. Thus, two consecutive years of droughts have reduced Maharashtra’s herd considerably.
Besides, demonetisation aggravated the issue, as farmers have not been able to provide enough nutrition to animals to maintain normal production. The combined effects of these are beginning to be show now. Earlier this year, both cooperative and private dairies had increased their selling and procurement prices.
Another reason for the sudden dip in liquid milk was the rise (Rs 100 per kg) in skimmed milk powder prices over the last six months. Dairies have diverted liquid milk to process more milk powder.
Rajiv Mitra, managing director of Govind Milk and Milk Products Private Limited, also confirmed the shortage. “Instead of our normal procurement of six lakh litres, we are now procuring 5-5.5 lakh litres per day,” he said. The Phaltan-based dairy procures milk from farmers in Pune, Satara, Solapur and Ahmednagar. Mitra, who did not foresee any more drop in production, said a price revision might be in the offing.
Overall, the milk situation in the country is set to be grim and talks have already started of a possible import of 25,000 tonnes milk powder. The country had effected such an import three years ago, when milk production had dipped substantially. Many within the industry oppose this.
D S Mane, chairman of Indapur Dairy and Milk Products Limited, said import of milk will force the dairies to revise the commission rate in the milk supply chain. “Farmers will not be able to realise proper prices,” he said.