It was about 4 p.m. and a row of men and women align themselves in a queue at the ‘Uzhavar Sandhai’, well before the arrival of the milk van. Within a few minutes, the van arrives and the distribution starts - even before the formal official verification of the density of the milk using a lactometer completes. "We have been assured of the purity of the milk; no need to conduct the test," say a few of the consumers, testifying to the quality of the commodity they have been getting twice a day since the introduction of the sales in September.

Sale of milk is a novel venture which this ‘Uzhavar Sandhai’ has shown to the entire state. It has, in turn, sparked a revolution in terms of assured returns for the producers and more credit flow from banks.

Apart from consumer satisfaction in terms of supply of milk at a fair price of about Rs.17 a litre, the initiative has brought about benefit to the producers. "We formed ‘Commodity Groups’ at four villages - Vilappatti, Erukkumalaipatti, Odukkoor and Vennavalkudi in the periphery of the town. Each group comprises 20 members who were, till recent months, selling the milk locally at a throwaway price of Rs.9 a litre," says the Deputy Director of Agri Business, T. Thangavelu.

Based on the success of the tie-up, several milk producers in a number of villages have been vying with one another in forming the Commodity Group and supply the milk to the Sandhai. "There has been a growing demand for quality milk. We are confident of meeting the demand by forming new Groups," he says. On an average, the daily sale of milk is about 150 litres in the morning and 90 litres in the afternoon.

Encouraged by the initiative, the Uzhavar Sandhai has been sanctioned a van for collecting the milk cans in the villages under the Tamil Nadu Irrigated Agriculture Modernisation and Water bodies Restoration and Management (TN IAMWARM) scheme.

More importantly, the programme has attracted the bank officials who come forward to sanction loans to more groups for the purchase of milch animals in and around Pudukottai. The tie-up arrangement with the banks ensures an assured recovery of loans.

The spot payment of cash to the members of the Commodity Groups is yet another advantage for the milk producers.

Mr. Thangavelu points he has planned to extend the scheme at a few more Uzhavar Sandhai in the district.