The dairy sector in Kerala had been going through challenging times ever since agriculture and associated segments lost the traditional importance in recent years. Milma, the government backed cooperative milk marketing body, functioning under three separate regions in the State, has been finding it hard to maintain supply despite the fact that Kerala depends on neighbouring States to fulfil its requirement. Only about half of the 10.5 lakh litres of milk required by the State daily is produced within the State.
The Ernakulam Regional Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Limited, the regional wing of Milma, had been making losses a few years ago. It has turned the corner and is making profits now owing to a variety of measures adopted by the region, M.T. Jayan, chairman of Ernakulam region of Milma, said. Any programme to increase production in the dairy sector would have to be focussed on the welfare of the farmer, he said.
A fortnight ago, the region had announced additional incentives to the farmers in the region. It included extra payment for the milk being procured during October at the rate of Re.1 per litre. The initiative was considered the beginning of the new effort to establish a hike in the market price of milk.
In fact, it was Ernakulam region which announced a hike in prices almost two years ago which had to be withdrawn due to the LDF government’s hesitation in supporting it.
Milma had based its course of action on a study which it had conducted.
The government too had gone for a study on the situation prevailing in the dairy sector. The pricing issue had gone to the court and the verdict was in favour of the farmers’ right to decide on the price of the produce.
The price hike had been necessitated by the increase in the input costs, Mr. Jayan said. Escalation in prices of cattle feed has been one of the key issues faced by the dairy sector.
Milma cattle feed, which was being sold at Rs.650 per 50 kg pack would be raised by Rs.200.
A major beneficiary of the price hike should be the dairy farmer without whom the State cannot expect to improve its production in a bid to achieve self-sufficiency in the sector. But the present hike will not benefit the farmer much as cattle feed prices too have been increased. Milma is also incurring additional expenditure for processing as the cost of petroleum products have gone up, Mr. Jayan said.