Dairy players heave a sigh of relief

Rutam Vora Ahmedabad | Updated on November 05, 2019

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Amul says the decision protects interests of 10 cr dairy farmers

Dairy major Amul welcomed the Centre’s decision not to sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) treaty and termed it a step in the right direction.

Amul said the decision would help achieve the government’s aim of doubling farmers’ income and protect the interests of 10 crore dairy farmers.

“It is a welcome decision and has given confidence to 10 crore dairy farmers. The government has done what they had promised. In spite of the pressure from other 15 partner countries, the government decided to safeguard the interests of India’s small and marginal dairy farmers. This will encourage farmers to continue investing in dairy farming,” R S Sodhi, managing director, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), said.

GCMMF is the marketer of Amul brand of dairy products. For over a year, debates on RCEP perturbed dairy farmers, who feared dumping of dairy products from milk-surplus countries such as New Zealand and Australia.

“Ever since the discussion on RCEP was initiated, there was uncertainty over the future of dairy sector. We had observed that the investments by dairy farmers for dairy development was reducing. But the latest decision clears the air about the uncertainties and gives further confidence to small farmers to stay invested in dairying,” Sodhi told BusinessLine.

Amul and various other dairy and farmers bodies including the apex dairy development institution, National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) had raised their objections to making dairy part of the RCEP negotiations.

As projected by Niti Aayog, India’s milk production is likely to touch 330 million tonnes by 2033, from the current 180 mt. But the projected demand is likely to be about 292 mt, which clearly indicates Indian would continue to have sufficient surplus to meet its own requirement, hence there was no case for allowing import of milk products even after a decade.

Multiple stakeholders consultations took place before arriving at the decision. Over the past few months, as the discussions moved towards finalisation stage, Amul along with other private and cooperative dairy federations, National Cooperative Dairy Federation of India held several meetings with the officials of the Ministry of Commerce including with the Union Minister for Commerce Piyush Goyal to sensitise the government on the likely impact of offering zero duty imports of cheaper dairy commodities from Australia and New Zealand.

The dairy players also received support from the Ministry of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries and the Ministry of Agriculture to build a case in their favour.

Gujarat Chief Minister had also voiced the concerns of the farmers before the Union Ministry.

More than a million women milk producer members of Gujarat and other states of India had also shared their concern directly with the PM with a personal request to reconsider India’s entry strategy in RCEP at the terms proposed by the other countries. They wrote hundreds of post cards to the Prime Minister pleading to reject the dairy proposal of RCEP.

The Swadeshi Jagran Manch and leading farmer organisations too played their role in highlighting the concerns of milk producers.

“The trade bodies viz CII, FICCI etc also provided a forum for discussion on the dangers of RCEP for dairy as well as other sectors. All sections of media also debated the demerits of RCEP and its likely impact on milk producers and the farm sector. Based on the above, Hon. Minister of Commerce Sh Piyush Goyal had personally assured that the Government will not take any decision against the interest of the milk producers,” Sodhi said acknowledging the support from acorss the spectrum of society.

He also stated that India is the largest milk producing country in the world with 20 per cent of world milk production.

Published on November 05, 2019

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