The supply-chain management of milk in several parts of Punjab has gone awry due to district administrations not cooperating with the milk producers, supplying agency Verka and distributers leading to lakhs of litres of milk going waste and costing several crores to the dairy farmers.
Sources in Cooperatives Department of Punjab government say that despite instructions being given by the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh as well as the Centre not to obstruct the delivery of essential items, administrations in several districts have persisted in stopping the movement of milk products.
Large parts of the state, particularly urban areas suffered shortfall in supply of milk Wednesday. Sources in the Cooperatives Department of the Punjab government said that by one estimate eight lakh litres of milk is going waste per day which means loss of almost Rs 4 crore to dairy farmers per day .
As per data accessed by The Indian Express, there was a shortfall of almost 16 per cent in milk supply by various Verka milk plants in the state on Wednesday as compared to March 24.
The highest shortfall of milk supply was in Hoshiarpur at 71 per cent but this was because the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh has ordered a lockdown and stopped lifting milk from Punjab.
The next highest shortfall was in Mohali where 30 per cent of the total quantity could not get delivered as compared to March 24, followed by Capt Amarinder’s constituency Patiala where the figure of shortfall was 27 per cent.
Officials of the Cooperatives Department have accused the Deputy Commissioners of Mohali and Patiala of having a lackadaisical approach over the issue of supply of milk and other essential items. “We are surprised that despite orders in place by the CM, the district police in these areas is not cooperating and are rather hindering milk supply,” said an official who did not want to be named.
Residents of Ludhiana have complained that they did not get their regular supply of milk Wednesday and that some dairy farmers were overcharging taking advantage of the situation. In Punjab Mata Nagar in Ludhiana milk was sold for Rs 68/litre — way above the regular price.
Several Verka booths in Mohali too did not get their regular supply of milk and those vendors who tried to enter the town to supply milk were not allowed to enter the town by the police. “I managed to enter Mohali yesterday by bribing policemen at a naka with two packers of milk, but today I was not allowed to proceed. My customers have been calling me up repeatedly, but I am helpless even though I have milk lying with me,” a vendor said.
“We understand that we have to remain isolated for the good of the country but at least ensure the supply of essential items. We have been waiting the whole day for milk and bread but it seems there are no arrangements for them. How long will this continue because some arrangements have to be made,” said Jagjeet Singh, a Mohali resident.
There have also been reports that announcements have been made in village gurdwaras in several parts of the state that no milk would be collected from dairy farmers due to the restrictions imposed by the state government.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Cooperatives Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said that Verka milk cooperative was collecting milk from dairy farmers. “Some other private operators may have stopped picking up milk, but not us. However, there is a massive problem of the distributors not being able to reach their shops and establishments to receive the milk and supply it to customers. The curfew passes for them have to be made by the district administrations. These administrations should be more proactive,” Randhawa said.
It is learnt that the district administrations have been asked by the Cooperatives Department to pass instructions down the line not to stop the movement of fodder trolleys and vehicles ferrying cattle feed.
They have also been asked not to impede the functioning of Milk Producers Cooperative Societies (village dairy centers for collection of milk). “This is important because lakhs of litres of milk has already gone waste resulting in loss of crores of rupees to farmers everyday,” the missive by the department states.
The district administrations have also been asked not to stop the movement of vehicles carrying milk from villages to Verka Milk Plants. “Police is still stopping their operation at some places and procurement has gone down by 8 lakh litres per day which means loss of almost Rs 4 crore to dairy farmers per day,” states the direction.
It is also learnt that employees engaged in procurement and supply of milk are also being stopped by police in many districts thus affecting the functioning of Milk Processing Plants. “Milk can’t even be stored for a day and has to packed or converted into commodities the same day,” an official said.
Movement of fuel like rice husk etc. for running plants and movement of work force engaged in these activities has also been impeded by local authorities in many districts.
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