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Enhancing Milk Productivity & Quality in India

27 Feb 2017

Milk is a lacteal secretion obtained by complete milking of one or more healthy milch animals. For a healthy diet, milk is important as it provides all the beneficial health nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, enzymes and vitamins required for the human body.India observed 16th World Milk Day on June 1, 2016, third National Milk Day on November 26, 2016 and a decade of the integrated food law [Food Safety and Standards Act 2006].

Milk is a lacteal secretion obtained by complete milking of one or more healthy milch animals. For a healthy diet, milk is important as it provides all the beneficial health nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, enzymes and vitamins required for the human body.India observed 16th World Milk Day on June 1, 2016, third National Milk Day on November 26, 2016 and a decade of the integrated food law [Food Safety and Standards Act 2006]. The observance should be relevant to substantially improve milk yield per animal and its quality and wholesomeness. India as the leading global milk producer needs to ensure the availability of clean, pure and nutritious milk to all citizens, attractive returns to milk producers and an efficient and well-functioning dairy chain, be it in matters of production, processing or marketing.  

India needs to create significant awareness among all stakeholders to harness the potential of milk & milk products to address country’s nutritional security and livelihood of 80 to 90 million farm families. The need is to double the milk yield per animal and significantly improve the milk quality to conform international standards. The dairy farming should become economically viable and financially bankable for small and marginal farmers [S&MFs]including agricultural labourers and internationally competitive.Against this background, this article highlights the significant growth of dairy industry and suggests the aspects of strategic action plan to double the milk yield per animal and improve its quality.

Milk Output 

India has the largest cattle population of 191 million in the world.Milk production was just 17million ton [MT] in 1950 with annual growth rate of only 1.2% during 1950s and 1960s, which increased to 4.3% propelling India to be the largest milk producer in the world since 1998. A national milk grid is established where annually over 13 million tons of milk is procured. In 2015-16, milk output is estimated to have increased to 160.35 MT and procurement of 42.162 million Kg per day.

Milk output [Million Ton] and Procurement [Million Kg/day]during 2008-09 to 2015-16




























% increase









Source: Express India dated 15-07-2016, harishdamodran@expressindia.com

India is, also, one of the largest consumers of milk and milk products in the world and the industry size is estimated at Rs.430 billion.During three decades [1982 to 2012] average milk yield of cattle and buffalo per day has grown from 1.9 kg to 3.9 kg and 3.7kg to 6.2 kg respectively. Although milk yield of cross bred cattle is 7.10 kg/day it is, also, significantly lower than that in UK [25.6], USA [32.8] & Israel [36.6]. This can be attributed largely to factors, viz. [i] quite a large number of S&MFs,  rural women and landless actively pursuing dairy farming have inadequate resources, technical know-how and low level of capability to manage cattle efficiently [ii] both intrinsic (low genetic potential) and extrinsic (poor nutrition/feed management, inferior farm management practices, inadequate veterinary and extension services and inefficient implementation of breed improvement programs) [iii]inadequate investment & efforts in arresting the declining key natural grazing resources in particular.

Milk consumption is growing at around 6.00% annually against 4.00% rate of production.The per capita milk availability has increased from 120 gm/day in 1960 to 307 grams in 2013-14 and further to 359 grams in 2014-15.The National Dairy Development Board has projected the demand for milk at 200MT by 2021-22. Government has invested Rs.22.42 billion to help meet a national demand of 150 million tons of milk by 2016-17.

National Dairy Plan

On 19th April 2012, the NDDB launched a 15-year perspective National Dairy Plan [NDP] envisaging an outlay of Rs.173 billion which aims at increasing the productivity of milch animals by adopting focused scientific and systematic processes and help rural milk producers greater access to the organized milk processing sector.It will cover about 1.2 million milk producers in 23,800 villages and aims at increasing milk procurement by cooperatives from current level of 30% to 65% in next 15 years. In order to enable cooperatives to perform better the constitution of existing cooperatives is amended to increase transparency in the cooperative sector and facilitates setting up of producer companies or new generation cooperatives.The NDDB will implement through its End Implementing Agencies located in each of the 14 major milk producing States.

Strategic Action Plan

India, to become globally competitive, will need to create an efficient supply chain network through significant investment in infrastructure and human resources. R&D efforts need to be intensified for sustaining the cost of production, increasing milk yield per animal and its quality, fodder productivity and risk mitigation. This requires developing innovative farming models and motivating a large number of small milk producers to adopt them. Linking the production system to the consumer demand and processing units requires a robust value chain, intensive research and technology infusion.  These strengths can further be leveraged with balanced growth of crop and livestock farming system. Strategic action plan should, therefore, focus on following aspects. 

  • Equal Status: Dairy farming now deserves to be given equal status on par with agriculture, rather than its subsidiary status, in view of its share in agricultural GDP and employment. Village-level milk producing units should be brought in the organized sector and promoted in a systematic manner to convert existing individual sustenance dairy farms and traditional family farms into collective, community and commercial farms operating as business farms. This would call for intensive training and capacity building of dairy farmers [human resources] with focus on business-like operations, financial and marketing management. 
  • Data Base: India should have a robust system to periodically generate survey based data and information on critical aspects of dairy sector that can help formulate five year perspective plan for targeted milk production State-wise bridging the gaps in institutional and physical infrastructure. India should develop a system to compete with developed countries where every milch animal is tagged with a number and every drop of milk processed, value added, marketed and instantly recorded.                     
  • Safety Standards: Unfortunately, a large share of the supply or production still does not conform to the domestic, leave alone global food safety standards. This is due to adulteration, lack of awareness &rigorous enforcement of Food Safety Standards and inadequate infrastructure comprising technology and trained manpower.
  • Milk production environment: The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India in a nationwide survey on milk adulteration in 2011 observed that 68.4% out of 1791 samples from 33 States did not conform to standards laid down by the food regulator. At the instance of Indian Dairy Association the FSSAI has now launched a fresh nationwide Milk Surveillance in 2016 covering 29 States and eight Union Territories. This may be one of the key reasons for India’s 0.4% share in global export despite India accounts for 17% of the global milk output. To remedy the situation, it requires significant investments in terms of purchasing electronic milk-testing machines, electronic weighing systems as well as chilling and transportation equipment. If this is accomplished, the quality of milk collected directly from farmers will be better, unadulterated and relatively cheaper.The environment under which milk is produced, collected, transported, processed and distributed should be fully conducive and that animal raising practices related to sanitation, quality of drinking water, feed and fodder, type and quality of pipelines etc. must be aligned to the goal of healthy milk. Farmers need to be trained/ guided to display high degree of hygiene and know-how of animal health care and nutrition.  
  • Organized sector: Growth in milk production will need substantial increase in milk handling capacity and marketing in organized sector since about 80% of milk produced is still handled in the unorganized sector and only remaining 20% is shared between cooperatives and private dairies. The organized dairy sector [comprising cooperatives and private sector] will have to progressively and systematically plan to expand their coverage of milk producers, penetrate into interior villages and improve their current share of marketable surplus from 30% to 65% by 2021-22. This would in turn make available larger volumes of good quality milk at competitive prices to consumers.
  • Capitalizing the Strength of Cooperatives: For900millionpeopleresidingin6,40,867 villages in India, dairying is not only just a large economic activity but also an integral part of India’s social and cultural heritage. Its uniqueness lies in its unifying power as no other industry touches lives of millions of farmers of which 70% are landless. Dairy cooperatives as the peoples’ institutions are the result of dairy farmers’ entrepreneurship to exploit the potential of dairy markets in India. These institutions have to be driven like businesses enterprises combining professional management with technical and financial expertise. The need is to nurture dairy entrepreneurs through effective training of rural youths at the village level coupled with dedicated leadership and professional management of farmers’ institutions/organizations.
  • Cross Breeding: History records that a crossbred cow Jill [a combination of Ireshire bull and Haryana cow] gave 65 litres of milk per day in 1927 at National Dairy Research Institute ,Bangaluru. This shows the extent of milk yield potential that can be harnessed through scientific cross-breeding techniques. However, strategies to achieve 200MT milk output by 2022 should consider realistic assessment of the options available for production enhancement specific to each agro-ecological region and socio-economic conditions of milk producers. Cross breeding has been one of the most promising options, but not the only one. A comprehensive review and a social and economic analysis of our experiences of cross breeding in past three decades can better guide the strategic planning for future.More realistic approach could be to undertake systematic breeding and genetic upgradation of India’s finest indigenous cattle, viz. Sahiwal, Red Sindhi, Gir, Kankrej and Rathi which are, in fact, good milk producers.  An organised effort to conserve and propagate elite germplasm from nucleus breeding herds will facilitate poor farmers to rear desi cattle more economically.
  • Artificial Insemination:At present there are 51 semen stations in India with a production capacity of 81 million doses /year against the current demand of 100 million doses for bovine semen and 150 million doses in the next few years. Most of the semen stations cater to the demand for buffalo semen and germplasm of exotic and cross bred cattle. The country needs to augment trained manpower including veterinary personnel to provide quick services. Besides, provide quality equipment and appropriate training to avoid artificially inseminated cows becoming infertile and developing infections. 
  • Feed management: About 34% is the current deficit of green fodder and concentrates, besides a supply-demand gap for quality forage seeds. Application of technology to produce large scale feed blocks, feed enzymes and other innovative feed resources, needs to be deployed.Effective implementation of the Ration Balancing Programme of NDDB and Accelerated Fodder Development Programme of the Government can ensure better feed availability and improved nutrition.
  • Veterinary services: Currentlydue to lack of adequately trained manpower and their mobility, the services provided do not create desired impact. An authentic, concurrently updated database for prevalence and emergence of diseases is essential for identification, onward prevention and control. Infrastructure of vaccine and diagnostic production units, semen stations and AI breeding farms that is largely owned by the government can be more efficiently utilised by way of appropriate participation of the private sector.
  • Market Access: Dairy industry’s potential for inclusive/equitable growth and income distribution in villages can be harnessed by enhancing market access and offering stable and remunerative prices to farmers. Integrating dairying and crop farming with value chain system can be a better source of sustainable livelihood of rural poor and most vulnerable families.
  • Export: India contributes about 17% of the global milk output but its share in global export is insignificant at 0.4%. A large quantity of milk still remains unprocessed. India is surrounded by countries and regions that are milk-deficient viz. Bangladesh, China, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, the UAE, Oman and other gulf countries all of which are located close to India. India, therefore, needs to have a systematic research and feasibility studies under Public-Private-Partnership mode to explore theses hitherto unexploited international markets and initiate specific policy and programs on lines of Agricultural Products Export Development Authority in consultation with Union Commerce Ministry, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade and Indian embassies in these countries. Rich experience of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation can be fruitfully utilized in the area of export of milk and milk products.
  • Best Practices: Resourceful farmers in India can be motivated and incentivized to learn best practices across the world. For example, Super Cows in Israel produce 12,000 litres milk a year because of superior breeding techniques, balanced nutrition, and management practices including better health care.

Surplus Milk Production in Developed Countries: Liberal subsidies, accompanied by application of science and technology, have been instrumental to make the few resourceful farmers in developed countries capable to produce surplus milk. As for example, the annual subsidies paid to milk producers are estimated at US $ 15 billion in the US, US$ 11billion in the EU and US $ 6billion in Canada. As compared to these total US$ 32 billion subsidies, the value of 141 million tons of raw milk produced in India without subsidy during 2014-15 is estimated at US$ 65 billion. For the first time, the ministerial conference of the WTO in December 2015 in Nairobi has legally bound the member countries to remove subsidies and promote free trade in farm produce. Withdrawal of subsidy obviously would limit the surplus milk production and arrest the fall in international prices.

Not only the surplus milk production in the EU, the US, New Zealand and Australia   has already caused slump in milk prices but under the provision of free trade agreement [FTA], these major nations producing surplus milk will exert sufficient pressure to allow them duty-free exports of their products to India. If this happens it would be detrimental to the interest of 80 to 90 million families to sustain their livelihoods, leave alone making a decent living. World Trade Organization, on one hand has opened up the opportunities in international trade by increased market access and worldwide reduction in import tariffs. However, in practice, these are being used as potent tools by developed countries to not only obstruct entry of dairy and other agricultural products from developing countries but also distort the free and fair operation in the international markets.

According to the Rural-21 dated 9th June 2016 [Frankfurt,Germany], the NGOs have warned that production of surplus milk by the EU farmers since 2011 is the decisive cause of flooding the world milk markets with massive excess milk leading to the slump in prices which threaten to dairy farmers’ livelihood in West Africa. Growth in surplus ratcheted up sharply in the course of eliminating milk quota in 2015. By contrast global demand for milk rose significantly more slowly. Possible solution for Africa and the EU is to put in place a policy framework to check excess production in the EU and virtually unrestricted imports to West Africa.

About Dr Amrit Patel

Dr Patel is an Ahmedabad based agriculture & rural credit consultant and has served as deputy general manager, Bank of Baroda. He has worked as Research Officer for 10 years with Department of Agriculture, and two years as Assistant Professor with Gujarat Agricultural University. Junagarh, India and published seven research papers. Dr Patel has also been guest faculty for 10 years in College of Agricultural Banking of Reserve Bank of India Pune; National Institute of Bank Management Pune; National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad.

Photo Credit: indolinkenglish.com

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