Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday suggested that there was a case for a rise in milk prices to help augment supply, but dismissed any suggestions that a price hike was imminent.

When confronted by reporters after a speech he made at a function here as to when a decision would be taken on raising milk prices, he shot back saying it is not for the Centre to take a decision on this.

“We are facing insufficient availability of milk, especially in northern India. In October, we had taken a decision to raise the price. Today, there is a demand that we should hike the price. Unless there is a decision, I do not know whether the States will be able to procure milk to meet the demand of people at large. This shows how the entire sector is neglected,” Pawar said, while inaugurating a two-day conference of ministers of animal husbandry and dairy.

When asked by reporters on the sidelines of the function as to whether there is a plan to raise milk prices, he said, “It is a State subject. We don’t take decision here. No State has demanded a hike milk prices. Some States have said here that 3-4 months back they had raised milk prices which have improved the supply.”

Milk prices in the national capital has reached at about Rs. 32 a litre by private dairy traders while the full cream milk supplied by Mother Dairy and Amul is available at Rs. 28 a litre.

In October, the full cream milk price was increased by Rs. 2 a litre in Delhi and some other cities.

“I want more production of milk. The ministry is encouraging states to take advantage of Central schemes,” Pawar noted.

Speaking on the occasion, National Dairy Development Board Chairperson Amrita Patel warned, “If we cannot meet the demand of milk domestically it may lead to imports of milk in future.”

The conference has been convened by the Centre to discuss methods for increasing milk production. To meet the growing demand for milk, the production needs to rise by five million tonnes annually, while the output has been increasing by 3.2 million tonnes a year in the last 15 years.

Milk production in the country crossed the 108.5-million tonne mark last year, but the demand is projected to grow sharply in the coming years and is estimated at 166 million tonnes by 2020.

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