Dairy firms Parag Milk Foods and Schreiber Dynamix Dairies, approved by Russia for selling milk products like hard cheese, have asked the Centre not to hold up their exports in order to benefit other dairies, which had not met Russian stipulations.

In a recent meeting with the Commerce Ministry, they warned that they may lose out on a promising market if India keeps insisting on changes in the draft protocol for imports.

“We explained that we should be allowed to export while the Centre continues to engage with Russia to bring new suppliers onboard,” said Shirish Upadhyay, Senior Vice-President (Strategic Planning), Parag Milk.

India wants Russia not to restrict imports to only those dairy plants that have captive cattle farms with over a thousand cattle. Parag Milk pointed out that despite getting approvals in April they have not yet been allowed to export, as the protocol is still pending.

The industry’s worries seem to be justified as Russia has “unofficially” told India that it does not want to make changes in the draft protocol. India wants the protocol to have a clause that would allow consultations after six months on allowing dairies without cattle farms to export.

“We do take the concerns of exporters very seriously and will shortly send a team of officials to Moscow to persuade them to change their minds,” said a senior Commerce Ministry official.

But time may be at a premium. Although Russia has extended the ban on dairy imports from Europe for another year, the window of opportunity for Indian exporters to make in-roads into the market is not unlimited. Parag was also upset with the Centre for calling other dairy companies to the meeting held on July 23, where they sought to sort out their export woes.

“Why should other players determine if the protocol should be signed? Our facility received the approval and we made it clear that those losing out should not decide our chances. If Russia is suggesting anything on the milk handling process, we should take it positively,” Upadhyay said.

The Commerce Ministry had objected to Russia’s condition as it felt that most competent dairy farms would be excluded.

Condition for export

According to Russia, if a dairy had a captive farm, it could get a certificate from an authorised veterinarian stating that the cattle had been vaccinated and there was no risk of foot-and-mouth disease.

India suggested that clusters of villages from where dairy plants source their milk could be identified with assigned veterinarians, who could give a similar certification. “While we would like to favour the two firms, we cannot hurt our long-term prospects since at present only those two units, not even Amul’s, qualify,” the official said.

“Once you have signed a protocol, you can’t revise it unilaterally. If we sign the protocol in the current form and later ask for a change, they (the Russians) may not oblige,” he added.