Dudhsagar Dairy
Mehsana District Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union Ltd.

Time for White Revolution-II


A good 16 years after dislodging the US as the world’s largest producer of milk, India has surged past the combined might of all EU countries when its milk production touched 140 million tonnes in 2013-14. The year-on-year growth, over 132.4 million tonnes milk produced in 2013-14, at about six per cent is well over double that of the global production growth. Quite a secure platform, one may think, with the second largest milk producer, the US, lagging way behind, managing only less than two-thirds the produce of India.

Not quite. India can ill afford to rest on its laurels, being also the largest consumer of milk in the world. As packed food items are fast gaining ground in households, processed milk is beginning to hold sway over lifestyle and consumption patterns, cutting across the rural-urban divide. The danger that could swamp India is already visible in China, which is now the largest importer of dairy products, despite being the third largest producer. All these years, Indian milk consumption was growing at five per cent while production grew at four per cent.
Given this backdrop, the time may finally be ripe for us to seriously consider ushering in a second white revolution, a task easier said than done. Two things have to happen in tandem. The National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), mandated by Parliament to follow the “cooperative strategy” for dairy development, should return to its mandate and help set up cooperatives in vast areas thus far untouched, and also strengthen the existing dairy cooperatives with financial and technical assistance.

Roll out a national milk grid, where Amul could emerge, with a pan-Indian presence, along the lines of national cooperatives such as IFFCO and Kribhco.

If such a scenario is allowed to unfold, then the regional dairy cooperatives, which are now competing against each other, get to leverage the marketing muscle of cooperative brands such as Amul and Sagar for selling their surplus milk and dairy products. When Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), the owner of Amul and Sagar brands and an amalgamation of 17 district unions, posted a turnover of `18,143 crore, the bulk of the revenue came from two unions—Banaskantha and Mehsana, the latter also having the largest milk processing capacity in the country.

The GCMMF seems to be well placed to provide leadership for ushering in the second white revolution in India. Laying down the agenda for setting up a national milk grid was Vipul Chaudhary, chairman of Dudhsagar Dairy, Mehsana, and former chairman of GCMMF who had last year spearheaded a national meet in Gandhinagar where the groundwork was laid to give parity to the dairy sector with agriculture. Aimed at drafting policy recommendations for helping rapid growth in milk production, he had thereafter taken up these proposals with the Government, especially the MPs, for their support.

Clearly, if a second white revolution is to happen, the government would have to seriously consider extending to the dairy sector all benefits currently available to the agriculture sector. This can be done waving a magic wand—milk should be considered as an agriculture crop. Also, the entire slew of soft loans and subsidies that goes to the agriculture sector should be extended to the milk producers.

“Milkman of India” Dr Kurien had nourished a dream which remained unfulfilled—a national milk grid. There seems to be no better time than now to revive his pet project. And, if there is any dairy cooperative institution that has the acceptance and credibility at the national level to make it happen, then it is the Amul Federation. Consider the advantages: a) facilitate milk production at places having competitive advantage for least-cost production; b) make the produce available at markets nationwide; c) thereby eliminate deficits and surpluses.

As originally envisaged, much of this was supposed to be initiated and implemented by NDDB. During Dr Kurien’s time, it used to be so, but unfortunately, in the post-Kurien era, NDDB has quietly abandoned the “cooperative strategy” for dairy development, and instead focused on going solo, with initiatives such as Mother Dairy Fruit and Vegetable Company Private Ltd which is now a wholly-owned subsidiary company of NDDB.

The disconnect between NDDB and major dairy cooperatives became stark when two brands—Mother Dairy from the NDDB stable and Amul began to battle it out as competing brands in the National Capital Region. The result: most dairy cooperatives no longer see NDDB as supportive of them. With the quantum of financial support to the cooperatives from the apex board fast drying up, the cooperatives have been compelled to look for funds from commercial institutions at higher interest rates.

A few months ago, the Centre appointed T Nanda Kumar, a retired bureaucrat, as the NDDB chairman. Coming as it did after Dr Amrita Patel’s 15-year tenure at the helm, a period that the cooperatives label as period of strategic drift, it is now the hope of high-profile dairy cooperatives that NDDB returns to the cooperative path, and once starts playing the role of catalyst in cementing India’s growth as a world beater in the dairy sector. With NDDB and the Amul Federation both located in Anand in Gujarat, it may be time that they began working as a team rather than as competitors. If nothing else, such a move would be in the best interest of the small and marginal dairy farmers who produce the bulk of India’s milk.

Taking a rain check on the future world milk order, where the dairy giants from the developed countries would continue to be chary of admitting that buffalo milk which accounts for almost 70 per cent of Indian production is actually milk, India needs to make sure that its production and consumption are in sync. And what better way to forge this key transmission and distribution chain that takes care of supply and consumption than by establishing a national milk grid. And if that is buttressed by the creation of a pan-Indian milk brand, it will be double strike that will reinforce India’s position in the world milk map. Surely, India can only gain, that too enormously, if lakhs of farmers who rear milch animals as a secondary source of income feel compelled through policy intervention to make it their mainline activity, through adoption of scientific and commercial dairying methods.

By Vinod Mathew
The New Indian Express, Kerala.
Published: 15th August 2014 06:00 AM

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Mehsana District Co-operative Milk Producers' Union Ltd.
Post Box No.1,
Gujarat 384 002,