Representational Image. Image Courtesy: India Tv
Maruti Soundale is a farmer from Koregaon teshil of Satara district. He is a sugarcane farmer and also owns four cows. Usually, he gives about 25 litres of milk every day to the dairy in his village and gets close to Rs 500 per day. However, as private dairies are slashing the price of milk, Maruti reports a loss of Rs 125 each day.
Milk production helps farmers get cash on a daily or at least weekly basis, but with the nationwide lockdown in place to contain the spread of COVID-19, farmers are dealing with losses.
"We go for private dairies because normally, they offer a better rate. But now, they have reduced it," said Maruti.
In Umarga city of Osmanabad district, Shahaji Bapu Pathare, another farmer, owns three cows and a buffalo and sells 16 litres of milk to a government-owned dairy at the rate of Rs 25/litre. But sometimes, he said, there is no pick-up and he has to sell it to the private dairy, at a reduced price.
Maharashtra produces 116.54 lakh metric ton milk per day. There are around three crore dairy animals in the state, as per the census of 2019. The industry sees a monthly turnover of Rs 1,000 crore. But this industry too is facing consequences of the lockdown. Apart from the supply of the milk, that of fodder has also been affected, as the trucks carrying fodder and other feed for the dairy animals are getting delayed.
"We are getting the feed at almost 20% higher rates. Cows need good feed regularly; otherwise, it will affect the quality of the milk. Once affected, it can take almost two months to return to normal. So, we have to take care of the animals. But, on the other hand, we are not even getting good rates," said Soundale.
The Maharashtra government has come up with a scheme to buy cow milk from farmers at the rate of Rs 25 per litre. Government-owned milk corporation, Mahananda, is reportedly buying 10 lakh litres of cow milk every day.
"Some private dairies have purposely lowered their rates. This is wrong. We are buying milk more than our capacity. All this milk will go for powder. We don't have enough plants; so, some private powder plants will have to be rented," said Ranjit Deshmukh, chairman of Mahananda.
But the scheme by the government is not enough. All milk-producing farmers need to be accommodated in the government scheme or private dairies must be forced to fall in line, experts believe.