KERALA

State facing shortage of milk

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM Aug. 26. The Kerala Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (Milma) is facing an acute shortage of milk and with sales expected to peak around Onam, the situation could turn out to be grim.

Already, Milma is procuring about 1.5 lakh litres of milk daily from its sister federations in the neighbouring States to tide over a shortage in supply. However, with an anticipated sale of nearly 12 lakh litres of milk just on Thiruvonam day, against the usual sale of about 7.1 lakh litres, Milma has a tough task ahead, of managing a possible crisis.

Milma has already stopped its daily supply of over 80,000 litres of milk to anganwadis under a Government-sponsored scheme introduced last year, in a bid to manage the current shortage of milk in the market. While the decision has drawn a lot of flak from all quarters, even this might not be enough to contain an expected shortage of over 6 lakh litres during Onam season, it is pointed out.

The current shortage is about 1.7 lakh litres daily. The procurement this year is around 6.1 lakh litres a day against last year's figure of around 7 lakh litres.

Milma officials have, however, denied that there could be a possible shortage in milk supply during Onam season. "All arrangements have been done to bring adequate supply of milk from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The demand for milk is always high during Onam and we have always managed the situation well,'' the managing director of Milma, P. R. Sanjeev said.

Though a shortage of milk is a `normal' phenomenon during Onam season, the deficiency is made up by importing adequate loads of milk and milk powder from neighbouring States.

However, this time around, making up the milk shortage might not be easy as Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are also experiencing a fall in procurement. Currently, there is a heavy demand for milk from these two States, as there is a shortage of milk up North too.

``There is a general shortage in milk across the country and many dairies, especially Mother Dairy in New Delhi, has been procuring huge quantities from Karnataka. We are thus forced to pay a higher price, but there will be no milk shortage during Onam,'' Mr. Sanjeev said.

Shortage is also being felt in the case of other dairy products like butter and ghee in many Milma dairies, the sales of which also peaks during Onam.

Normally, monsoon period is supposed to be the `flush' season when the milk procurement is surplus. "This year, the dip in milk procurement is about 17 per cent in the Thiruvananthapuram region and about 10 per cent in Ernakulam region,'' says C. R. Franklin, Quality Control, Milma.

Meanwhile, Milma will resume the supply of milk to anganwadis after Onam, Mr. Sanjeev said. "We had no option but to stop the scheme temporarily because milk is in short supply. Also, the Government owes us over Rs. 10 crores by way of this scheme. Unless we get this money, we will not be able to buy milk from outside the State,'' he said.

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