Reeling under the impact of the second wave of Covid-19, Kerala dairy farmers have begun to dump milk down the drain. Earlier this week, a section of farmers in Kozhikode even took “milk bath”, in protest against the suspension of milk procurement by the Kerala Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (Milma).
Covid restrictions have started affecting dairy farmers. Prolonged lockdowns, coupled with closure of hotels and restaurants, has affected the marketing of milk. The reduced purchasing power of households has also been cited as a contributing factor for the subdued demand. As a result, milk co-operatives are unable to procure milk from dairy farmers during the afternoons.
Milma procures around 16 lakh litres of milk daily from eight lakh dairy farmers in three regions of the State - Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam and Malabar. The reduction in procurement by about 60 per cent following the difficulties in managing the surplus has resulted in an excess of four lakh litres in the market.
Normally, milk marketing federations convert the excess quantity into milk powder by utilising production facilities in neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. P.Murali, Managing Director, Milma Malabar region, said restrictions due to the pandemic have affected the movement of surplus milk to Tamil Nadu for production of milk whitener. This has forced the agency to reduce the procurement by 40 per cent. “We are making all efforts to reduce the burden of farmers and hope that we will be able to make 80 per cent procurement soon”, he said.
T.P. Sethumadhavan, Deputy Director, Department of Animal Husbandry, told BusinessLine that the government’s mission to increase milk production coupled with early rains during summer facilitated an increase in milk production. Moreover, the rise in the availability of green fodder led to a quantum jump in milk production, leading to supply-demand mismatch in dairy production.
The need of the hour is to reduce production in tune with procurement and marketing. The authorities should explore more value addition and local marketing opportunities to meet the procurement crisis. “It is a fact that some of the districts are facing an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. This, in turn, has started affecting milk production,” he added.
As a temporary solution to overcome the crisis, Milma has also come up with a “Milk Challenge” to encourage financially well-off families to increase their daily purchase by another half a litre as a constructive measure to support a cause.
Admitting that the stoppage of afternoon procurement of milk has hit dairy farmers in a big way, the State Government has decided to distribute the excess milk to Anganwadis, Covid patients who are undergoing treatment in government treatment centres, old age homes, migrant labour camps and fisher-folk to tide over the crisis. Through this initiative, Milma expects that around 1.50 lakh litres of milk can be sold. It is expected that the situation would improve in the coming days with the easing of the lockdown, official sources added.