With the foot-and-mouth disease affecting hundreds of milch animals, it will be a tough task for the Ernakulam wing of Milma to maintain regular supply of milk.

With the constraints on procurement unlikely to subside soon, the milk cooperative may be forced to increase the market prices of milk. A hike of Rs.3 per litre is likely to be proposed in the new year.

Milma is finding it difficult to procure the required quantity of milk from the farmers in the region. Procurement from neighbouring States has also become a difficult endeavour as FMD had already left a trail of destruction in the dairy sector there.

There is a shortage of 35,000 litres of milk in the daily local procurement in the region now. The shortage may deepen with more animals falling prey to the viral disease.

The Ernakulam region comprising Ernakulam, Thrissur, Kottayam and Idukki districts has been procuring over 2.1 lakh litres daily. In addition, over 1 lakh litres were being brought from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

With FMD having had struck Tamil Nadu and Karnataka earlier, the milk availability in those States has also suffered a setback.

The Ernakulam region has made an agreement for procurement from Maharashtra. The supply from Maharashtra has already commenced, with 15,000 litres being brought from there daily. The cost of procurement has gone up on account of additional expenses on transport.

“Milma is incurring an expense of Rs.5 per litre on transport of the milk procured from Maharashtra,” said Balan Master, chairman of Ernakulam region of Milma.

At least 100 milch animals have died of the disease in recent days in the region and about 2,000 have been affected, according to him. Milma has urged the Animal Husbandry Department to provide urgent steps to meet the crisis. Mr. Balan Master, who expressed dissatisfaction over the official handling of the crisis, said at least one mobile veterinary clinic should be provided for every two block panchayats.

The contagion, affecting the livelihood of hundreds of dairy farmers, should be declared as a national disaster, he said.

Though the government had promised to hike the compensation for dead cattle from Rs.16,500 to Rs.20,000 per animal, clear-cut instructions were yet to be issued. There was an announcement on a scheme to provide cattle feed, which remained to be implemented, according to him.

The regional wing of Milma is providing Rs.1 extra to the farmer for every litre of milk being procured during the current season, apart from an additional Re.0.50 per litre being given to the primary society. The entire expense on this account is being borne by the cooperative.

When the milk price was hiked by Rs.5 per litre in 2012, the farmer was allotted Rs.4.60 per litre. The cooperative won’t be able to extend a continued patronage to the farmers without hiking the prices in the near future.

Nevertheless, hiking the prices is not easy. The government had stepped in when Milma proposed a hike two years ago. The matter was dragged to court, ultimately permitting the cooperative to increase the prices.

Similar interventions are likely to crop up this time too though the agenda is yet to be discussed at the cooperative body’s board meeting.

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