Milkman vs Middleman is an old game, but things are set to change with high technology coming in to ride a long value chain from the cattle to the consumer, helping farmers get better prices and consumers better quality for the milk they buy.
Milk-Net, an information technology-based project, has been planned by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), and will be executed by a little known public sector company, Rajasthan Electronics and Instruments Ltd (REIL).
The project aims to bring transparency in the collection, transportation and processing of milk and ensure timely payment to producers while maintaining quality at all levels.
It is also being viewed as a means to eliminate the middleman and cut consumer prices by a minimum of five per cent.
MM Bharadwaj, managing director of REIL, said that his company will soon start a Rs 8-crore pilot project in Rajasthan and Haryana using GSM mobile phone technology and computer networks.
"The thrust of Milk-Net project is to bring transparency from the cattle to the consumer," he said.
The Union Ministry of Heavy Industry holds 51 per cent equity and the Rajasthan government 49 per cent in REIL, and the two would equally share the investment for the project to be completed in two phases in the two states. If the project succeeds it would be replicated in other states.
REIL has developed a radio frequency identification device (RFID) chip which would be implanted on milk-yielding cattle to carry information on health, the time of vaccination and insemination.
In a similar way, the quality and fat levels of milk collected at the chilling centres from various milk cooperatives will be monitored.
"Milk is a perishable item. With this system, those at the chilling centre and the dairy would be able to monitor online the quantity and quality of milk they receive. They can also track the movement of vehicles connected by a global positioning system (GPS)," said Bharadwaj.
To prevent adulteration of milk once it is filled into tankers, their inlets and outlets would be fitted with tamper-proof microchip-operated seals which would record any attempt at tampering with the time.
REIL is also in talks with a number of leading banks to set up Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) to dispense cash for farmers.