A majority of dairy product units and exporters from Maharashtra and other states have threatened to stop milk procurement from February 25. This threat has been spurred by the Union Government’s policy of allowing indiscriminate import of butter oil and skimmed milk powder (SMP) by some dairy companies in the country.
The agitation, under the aegis of the Dairy Industry Export Organisation (DEIO), is very likely to affect Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra, where most of its members are concentrated. Besides, the organisation is influential in northern and southern states too from where its members will join the chorus of protests.
Across India, DEIO’s members procure and process approximately one crore litres of milk daily procured from over 20 lakh farmers. The Centre’s import move is likely to arm-twist Indian dairy farmers into reducing prices of indigenous products to withstand competition faced by cheaper foreign products. This, they fear, will result in huge losses in times of global financial slowdown.
President of DIEO Captain Amitabh Ray wanted the Union Animal Husbandry Ministry, headed by Sharad Pawar, to take immediate action. “Despite repeated requests, the government has not given us any relief,” he said.
Ray said the imported SMP and butter oil were much cheaper than the Indian products. “Globally prices of dairy products have come down due to huge subsidies given by the USA, Europe, New Zealand and Australia. If the government does not stop import at throwaway prices, Indian farmers will suffer great losses,” he warned.
Ray has also demanded that the government grant export subsidy with retrospective effect from April 2008.