Complaints from the public that certain types of milk are unavailable for Aavin cardholders have begun to pour in the last two weeks. This unannounced halting of sales had incensed many a households in Madurai and Theni, who favour Aavin milk over private players.
Apart from this, tea-stall owners and restaurants are also complaining that their favoured product – full cream milk (FCM) – was unavailable for several months of late. As the FCM had higher content of fat and solid-non-fat components, it was the preferred option for commercial establishments.
The Consumers Rights Protection Council said that these moves had caused consternation among the public. Its president S. Thamizharasan had called for reinstating all the milk varieties in the cards and sent a memorandum to this effect to the District Collector, who is the special officer of Aavin.
Madurai Aavin Union sources told The Hindu that sale of premium milk and standardised milk through Aavin cards had been suspended since September 1. Citing exponentially increasing demand, officials said that fresh cow milk would be available for card-holders without any restrictions.
While sales had been increasing at over ten percent, the nation-wide drought was having an impact on procurement owing to distress-sale of milch cattle by dairy farmers. Further, allegations of misuse of the cards for commercial gains have also arisen, sources said.
Giving a break-up of the sales, sources said that around two lakh litres a day was sold in August with premium milk comprising 85,000 litres, standardised milk 55,000 litres and fresh cow milk around 60,000 litres.
Of these, sales to card holders accounted for 16,000 litres of premium milk, 35,000 litres of standardised milk and 20,000 litres of fresh cow milk.
The full cream milk, which was selling around 50,000 litres a day, was halted in May 2008 in order to cater to the essential milk products. Despite this move that should have resulted in saving 50,000 litres for regular milk products, demand was still climbing, official said.
One recent day, the sales exceeded 2.12 lakh litres while the procurement on that particular day was only around 2.03 lakh litres. The buffer stock held for emergencies had to be utilised, sources said.
“Giving an Aavin card to a customer is guaranteeing a month's supply of milk. However, in the present circumstances when demand seems to be outpacing procurement, we are imposing these restrictions,” said a senior official.