Agri Business

Govt promises to protect dairy farmers’ interests

Our Bureau Ahmedabad | Updated on September 18, 2019 Published on September 18, 2019

The government invited about 60 top dairy stakeholders for consultation

At stakeholders’ meet, dairy players object to any move for cheap imports

Reiterating their concerns over dairy farmers’ livelihood and India’s milk security under the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), dairy players on Wednesday raised strong objections to allowing cheap imports of dairy products into the country.

A stakeholders’ consultation meeting was organised by the Department of Commerce on Wednesday in New Delhi.

Govt’s assurance

The government, on the other hand, is learnt to have recorded these objections and assured the industry of protecting the farmers’ interests while taking a decision on RCEP.

Soon after the meeting, RS Sodhi, Managing Director, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), which sells dairy products under Amul brand, stated that the government’s approach was positive.

“The meeting took place in a cordial environment. We communicated our concerns. The government has given an assurance that no decision will be taken that will go against the interests of farmers,” Sodhi told Businessline on phone.

The government had invited about 60 top dairy stakeholders, including multinationals and domestic private players besides some dairy federations, for consultation. Earlier on July 22, the Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal had met the dairy sector and assured them that the government would not venture into anything that would harm the interests of dairy farmers.

Dairy sector sceptical

However, the dairy players continue to keep their fingers crossed till a final decision is taken. The government is believed to be keen on allowing imports of dairy commodities for value addition and then promote exports.

“But we can’t do it. We need to explore where this niche market is. The world market is currently not favourable,” one of the private dairy players said.

In the dairy sector, it is the commodities – skimmed milk powder or butter oil – that are exported, while value addition takes place at the consumption level.

“It is not possible to import dairy commodities from New Zealand, add value and export them to any other country. This model may work in other industries such as textiles, but not in dairy,” Sodhi said.

Current imports

Notably, India's total dairy imports for 2018-19 stood at at 10,000 tonnes, most of which was whey powder and speciality cheese at a much higher import duty. As per the trade data, India’s demand for milk and milk products is estimated at about 150 million tonnes, as against the supply of milk at about 180 million tonnes currently.

In view of this, there is no case for India to allow cheap dairy imports. Recently, apex dairy body, National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) had also expressed its view to keep dairy sector out of the purview of RCEP negotiations to safeguard the interests of small and marginal farmers.

Published on September 18, 2019
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