Domestic powdered and dry whey makers now have higher protection with the Centre hiking the tariff rate on this product to 40 per cent from the existing 30 per cent.

However, this move of the Finance Ministry has not been fully welcomed by some players, who still feel there is a case for further increase in import duty on whey powder.

For instance, the largest dairy products player, Amul wants the duty on whey powder imports to be raised further.

Terming it a threat to the farmers and adverse to the domestic dairy industry, RS Sodhi, Managing Director, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) that owns the brand Amul, said, “First they hiked the duty to 40 per cent; then reduced to 30 per cent for certain categories of whey. We are demanding the duties to be hiked to 60 per cent.”

Cheaper imports

According to him, every month about 1,500 tonnes of whey powder gets imported in the country.

“We are forced to sell it cheap sometimes even below our costs because the imports are cheaper. Mostly private dairies import these whey powder to mix it with Skimmed Milk Powder,” stated Sodhi.

Amul produces about 20,000 tonnes of whey annually. Amul sells its whey protein powder under the brand name of Amul PRO.

Higher duty needed

Echoing similar sentiments, Parag Milk Foods Chairman Devendra Shah  stated that at a time when Indian farmers are struggling to get higher prices, allowing imports of milk-based protein will hurt the dairy sector.

“Dairy products imports are banned in India. But under the name of pharma-grade, whey protein, even milk protein often gets imported. We are not sure about the source of these proteins,” he said, adding that a higher duty is necessary to safeguard the domestic whey makers.

Parag had last year launched its whey protein range under the brand name of Avvatar Absolute.

Rising demand

Recently, the demand for whey protein has been on the rise mainly due to rise in fitness conscious population. According to Jain, India’s whey protein consumption is growing at the rate of about 22-25 per cent.

The overall market size of the milk-based protein is estimated at around ₹10,000 crore.

Although the import duty on powdered, dry whey imports had been increased to 40 per cent, it remains same at 30 per cent for concentrated, condensed liquid or semi-solid whey.