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Thursday, Jan 30, 2003

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`Dairy co-ops must hold control in jt ventures'

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CHENNAI, Jan. 29

JOINT ventures between dairy co-operatives and the private sector can be contemplated only if the co-operatives have the controlling stake, according to Dr V. Kurien, Chairman, Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (GCMMFL).

Addressing reporters here, Dr Kurien said that he was reconciled to the concept of such joint ventures but only if the co-operatives are in control. That alone would ensure that the farmers' interests are protected.

However, he would examine every opportunity including the legal process to oppose the proposal by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) to enter into joint venture with private sector to market dairy products from the co-operative fold. NDDB was playing into the hands of multinationals by permitting the private sector have a controlling stake in such joint ventures.

NDDB has chosen a `devious' route to promote such joint ventures through different levels of subsidiaries, he said.

While acknowledging that not many co-operatives are as strong as the Rs 2,500-crore Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd, that cannot be an excuse for letting the private sector take over, he said. The solution to the ills in the co-operative movement lies in the co-operative system and not in joint ventures controlled by the private sector, he said.

It was the farmers who had built the Rs 2,500-crore Gujarat Co-operative that spawned the Amul brand that dominates the dairy scene in the country, he pointed out. That farmers owned the business was the cornerstone of the success model. The movement, if led properly, was totally sensitive to the farmers' needs. The problem was that most dairies were not professionally managed, he said.

The issue of who holds the controlling stake, whether the co-operative or the private partner was the point of dissent between himself and the NDDB Chairperson, Ms Amrita Patel. Having groomed her over three decades to succeed him at NDDB, she had caught him by surprise. That she should contemplate letting private sector hold the reins in such a joint venture was an indication that "obviously I had not done as good a job as I should,'' he said.

Dr Kurien felt that the Government should ensure that NDDB conformed to the provisions of the NDDB Act. The dairy farmers should oppose NDDB's policy of investing in commercial and business activities rather than promoting co-operative movement, and Mother Dairy established with NDDB's funds and milk from the co-operatives should revert to the co-operative fold, he added.

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`Dairy co-ops must hold control in jt ventures'

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