The Revenue Department of the Union Finance Ministry has issued a notification regarding the import of milk powder and a few other products. The decision to allow the import of 10,000 metric tonnes with 15% tariff was taken on June 23.
During the lockdown, owing to the decreased sale and consequent excess availability of milk, dairy owners have been forced to produce more and more milk powder. Mahananda, Maharashtra government's dairy products company, reportedly procured 10 lakh litre milk per day from farmers in April, May and June, told an official. The procurement was a big relief to the farmers who had faced a lack of demand and lower rates during the lockdown.
Private dairies like Sonai and Chitale, too, have resorted to manufacturing milk powder from the excess milk. “India does not need to import milk powder. This decision will further slash the already declining rates of powder," said Dashrath Mane, president of Sonai dairy industry.
As per the state Dairy Development Ministry, 116 lakh metric tonne milk is produced in the state per day. There are about three crore milk-producing animals (mainly cows and buffaloes) in the state.
As per primary estimates of dairy business experts, there is almost 50,000 tonne milk powder in stock in Maharashtra alone. India's milk powder stock can add up to more than 2 lakh tonnes.
"With the surplus milk powder stock, the rates have already gone down. In January, the rate of per kg milk powder was around Rs 300. But it has come down to somewhere between Rs 160 and 175 now. In this situation, import of powder will further push the rates down. It won't be in the interest of the domestic dairy business," said Shripad Chitale of Chitale dairy. He also said that 10,000 MT import is negligible compared to the production in India. "But this is not necessary right now," he added.
Sources told NewsClick that the decision to import milk powder has come after lobbying by ice cream producers earlier this year. "Rates were higher then. So, the ice cream producers’ lobby was pushing for an immediate decision to import powder looking at the summer season market. But, it is too late now," said a senior bureaucrat from the state Dairy Development Department.
Farmers’ organisations have also protested against this decision by the central government. State General Secretary of All India Kisan Sabha Dr Ajit Navale said that the decision to import powder goes against the interests of the farmers and Indian dairy business. "The Union government must roll back the decision; else, it will have to face protests by farmers. Farmers are already losing Rs 8 to 10 per litre. Now, this decision will increase those losses," said Dr Navale.
Also read: ‘80% Bihar Migrant Workers in Delhi-NCR Had Zero Income in April-May’