A not-so-white vision
he government’s projections of milk production almost doubling and incomes of farmers more than trebling by 2023-24 seem rather rosy. It
took over one-and-a-half decades for India’s milk production to roughly double from 80.6 million tonnes (mt) in 2000-01 to 163.7 mt in 2016-17. But if the Narendra Modi government’s National Action Plan for Dairy Development: Vision-2022 is to be believed, it’s possible not only to achieve the next near-doubling to 300 mt by 2023-24, but also more than treble the average net income of milk producers from Rs 516 to Rs 1,697 per month. How is this going to be done, given that achieving 300-mt output in 2023-24 would require an annual growth of 9.04 per cent, or twice the 4.53 per cent average rate recorded between 2000-01 and 2016-17? Well, the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, which has prepared the Action Plan, projects an increase in the country’s in-milk cattle and buffalo population from 88.35 million in 2015-16 to 108.31 million in 2021-22 and 116.38 million in 2023-24. That, along with average daily milk yield per animal rising from 4.65 kg to 6.44 kg and 7.06 kg, would result in output climbing from 155.5 mt in 2015-16 (it presumably also includes production from goats) to 254.5 mt in 2021-22 and 300 mt in 2023-24. As for incomes, the assumption is that the average monthly milk sale by farmers will go up from the existing 80.1 litres (@2.67 litres per day) to 151.37 litres (5.05/ day) in 2021-22 and 178.40 litres (5.95/ day) in 2023-24. Also, it is expected that the average procurement price per litre paid by dairies for buffalo and cow milk would increase from the current Rs 32.19
to Rs 43.14 in 2021-22 and Rs 47.56 in 202324, with corresponding retail prices of Rs 46, Rs.
61.64 and Rs. 67.96 per litre, respectively. Taking the farmer’s margin at 20 per cent of the procurement price, the average milk producer’s net monthly income would grow from Rs. 516 now to Rs. 1,306 in 2021-22 and Rs. 1,697 by 2023-24. In other words, not a mere doubling but a more-than-trebling of incomes over seven years! But how realistic are these forecasts/targets? To start with, consider the projected onethird expansion in the country’s in-milk bovine population between 2015-16 and 2023-24. It is obvious that this cannot happen through an increase in the overall cattle and buffalo numbers; these have grown by just 3.74 per cent — from 288.79 million to 299.6 million — between 1992 and 2012. There is simply not enough fodder, feed and water resources to support animals significantly beyond the current population levels. So, it means raising the share of productive in-milk animals within the total bovine population. But how feasible is that in today’s political environment, where many, if not most, state governments have enacted stringent laws against cattle slaughter — making it virtually impossible to dispose of unproductive animals?
between 2015-16 and 2023-24. How? The Modi government, it seems, is relying greatly on the Rashtriya Gokul Mission that aims to raise the productivity of indigenous and nondescript cattle by creating a “super elite” population of Sahiwal, Gir, Tharparkar, Red Sindhi, Rathi, Kankrej and Hariana breeds. There would be a programme of selective breeding among the recognised 37 “pure” indigenous breeds, and also of upgrading nondescript cattle by inseminating these with semen from the “super elite” native bull population. This would mark a departure from the existing strategy, where the upgradation of nondescript animals — those with no defined breed characteristics — has sought to be achieved through crossbreeding with western breeds such as Jersey, Holstein Friesian and Brown Swiss. The wisdom of such a departure, given the implications for both milk production and farmer incomes, is questionable, as the accompanying article below points out. The Action Plan, moreover, talks of enhancing artificial insemination (AI) coverage, without which no breeding strategy — whether via indigenous or exotic breeds — can obviously succeed. It envisages extending AI coverage to 65 per cent of the total breedable bovine population by 2021-22, from the present 25 per cent. Again, there’s no clarity on how this is to be achieved, other than a general statement that all states “would have to work out clear cut strategies … to improve AI coverage along with ensuring efficiency of [the] current system”. Coming to incomes, higher milk sales by farmers and improved price realisations are predicated on the assumption that the share of production retained for self and local area consumption will fall from 48 per cent in 2015-16 to 40 per cent by 2021-22 and 2023-24. Further, the share of milk handled by organised cooperative and private dairies will shoot up from 21
The second component of production is milk yields per animal, A woman pouring milk at a village bulk cooler in Gujarat’s Surendranagar district which is expected to go up by 52 per cent per cent in 2015-16 to 33 per cent in