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Land of honey but no milk


Kozhikode (Kerala) : Milk is in short supply in god’s own country. Kerala, a milk surplus state in 1989, today depends on neighbouring states to overcome a severe milk shortage.

The state’s largest milk marketing agency, the Kerala Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (Milma), Tuesday hiked the milk price by Rs.2 to meet the cost of procurement from Karnataka and also provide a better price to dairy farmers. Consumers in Kerala will now pay Rs.19 for a litre of toned milk, marketed in sachets by Milma.

“Milma should have hiked the price three to four years before. This would have prevented farmers from quitting dairying,” Prayar Gopalakrishnan, the founder chairman of the federation, told IANS.

As per the 2003 cattle census, the cattle population in the state fell by 15 percent from 2000.

“In 2000 Kerala produced 2.7 million tonnes of milk. In two years it came down to 2 million tonnes. As farmers found dairying uneconomical they started to sell the calf for veal,” said Gopalakrishnan.

Milma was established in 1980 under a tripartite agreement between the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), Kerala government and the Government of India.

According to Gopalakrishnan, the formation of Milma played a key role in increasing milk production in the state.

“In every sector productivity will be boosted if there is a stable market, good price and regular payment. Milma was successful in ensuring this,” he said.

However, rivalry between the Left government and Milma, which has Congress party men at its helm, affected the functioning of the milk cooperative.

“Earlier, Milma had a scheme called production and incentives. Under this, Milma staff and veterinary doctors used to visit primary milk societies once in a week. This scheme helped in the proper care of cattle,” said Gopalakrishnan.

According to the former chairman, things took a downturn when the government used its influence to curtail such activities of Milma, a cooperative body, and entrusted these responsibilities to the Dairy Development Department.

Milma’s eagerness to make easy money also worked against dairy development in the state.

“Between 2002 and 2007, instead of promoting dairying in the state, Milma found it convenient to bring milk from outside the state. Milma got milk cheap in neighbouring states and sold it here making easy money,” Gopalakrishnan added.

K.P. Philip, a dairy farmer and owner of a modern dairy unit at Kozhikode, told IANS: “In those years Milma totally ignored farmers here. As a result, many people lost interest in dairying.

“The Kerala Livestock Development Board (KLDB) and the Dairy Development Department were totally ineffective in promoting dairying in the state. The KLDB could do nothing to improve the breed of cattle,” he added.

Even now, Philip said, “the government is spending money but the milk production is falling. The fund disbursed for dairying is being used for some other purposes.

“The farmers should get Rs.16 per litre of milk to make dairying a profitable venture.”

Gopalakrishnan also echoed this view. He said: “The farmers should get 80 percent of the price that Milma charges for a litre of milk from consumers.”