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Editorial Articles

Issue no 45, 04-10 February 2023

India’s Dairy Sector: A Unique Model


K V Priya

India is the largest producer of milk in the world, accounting for 23% of the world's total output. Riding at the back of this White Revolution, a monumental story that has its origins in 1970, the country has set an ambitious target to double its milk production to 300 million tonnes (MT) by 2023-24. It is a quantum leap from 1950- 51 when milk production stood at a mere 17 MT. In 1968-69, before the launch of Operation Flood, milk production stood at 21.2 MT, which increased to 30.4 MT by 1979-80, 51.4 MT by 1989-90 and a whopping 209.96 MT by 2020-21. In three decades, daily milk consumption in the country has increased from a paltry 107 grams per person in 1970 to 427 grams in 2020-21!

Integral to India: Inaugurating the International Dairy Federation, World Dairy Summit (IDFWDS) at Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, in September 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi underlined the centrality of 'Pashu Dhan' (Livestock) and milk-related business as an intrinsic part of India's cultural landscape. This has accorded the dairy sector of India several unique characteristics. The four-day-long IDF WDS-2022, held from 12th to 15th September was a congregation of global and Indian dairy stakeholders, that included industry leaders, experts, farmers, and policy planners, who brainstormed around the theme of Dairy for Nutrition and Livelihood. Around 1,500 participants from 50 countries participated in IDF WDS-2022. A dairy is a business enterprise established for the harvesting of animal milk, which is obtained mostly from cows or goats, and also from buffalo, sheep, horses and even camels for human consumption. It is one of the few sectors in the economy with a multiplier effect. It augments the incomes of small-marginallandless farmers across six lakh villages in India, its sale/export generates employment, improves nutrition, empowers women and is a great tool for equitable growth and income distribution, among its other assets. Dairy is an integral part of the Indian economy, rural livelihood, sustainable development, progress, and growth. ``The potential of the dairy sector not only gives impetus to the rural economy but is also a major source of livelihood for crores of people across the world", PM Modi said adding: "This sector provides employment to more than 8 crore families in the country.''

Economic Survey 2021-22: The Economic Survey 2021-22, underlined another unique aspect: Dairy is the single largest agricultural commodity that contributes five percent to the national economy. Strong farm gate prices supported by the growth of Indian economy and rising domestic demand for value-added dairy products, are factors contributing to increased milk production. Thanks to higher disposable incomes and the economic boom, Indians are increasingly consuming an array of dairy products. These are wide ranging - from milk, flavoured milk, UHT (Ultra High Temprature) milk, goat and camel milk, A2 milk, organic milk, curd, probiotic products, flavoured and frozen yogurt, buttermilk, lassi, ghee, butter, cheese, paneer, cream, khoya, dairy whiteners, skimmed milk powder, ice cream, sweetcondensed milk and dairy-based sweet, such as cheese, ice creams, varieties of yogurt and milk-based beverages. India's White Revolution's further evolution and success can be traced to the relentless enhancement of the potential of India's dairy sector since 2014. This has led to a huge rise in milk production, thereby triggering an increase in the income of farmers. "India produced 146 million tonnes of milk in 2014. It has now increased to 210 million tonnes. That is, an increase of about 44 per cent", the PM pointed out. He also mentioned that as compared to the two percent milk production growth at the global level, India is clocking a growth rate at more than six per cent!

Dairy Cooperatives: India's journey from a milk deficit nation to a milk exporter can be attributed to the stellar role played by dairy cooperatives since the launch of Operation Flood in 1970. According to a United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) forecast, world trade in dairy products in 2021 stood at 88 MT, in which India's share stood at 1.18 lakh tonnes. India has subsequently increased trade to countries like Bhutan, Afghanistan, Canada, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Apart from growth of the export market, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) says that the demand for milk and milk products in India will surge up to 266.5 million metric tonnes (MMT) by 2030. This is mainly because India's population count is expected to reach 1.5 billion by 2035. The crucial factor driving India's augmented milk production is the fact that the country is home to one fourth of the global bovine population. According to 20th Livestock Census 2019, the total cattle population of the country currently stands at 536.76 million and has gone up by 4.8% since the 2012 Census. The total bovine population - buffaloes, mithuns, and yaks - was 303.76 million in 2019, marking a 1.3% rise in their numbers since 2012. The total number of cattle also went up by 1.3% during this period. The largest livestock population was recorded in the state of Uttar Pradesh (68 million), followed by Rajasthan (56.8 million) and Madhya Pradesh (40.6 million).Despite being blessed with a significant livestock base of milch animals, India has the arduous task of transforming itself into a true global dairy hub.

Integrated sample survey: According to the Integrated Sample Survey, the average annual productivity of cattle in India during 2019-20 was pegged at 1,777 kg per animal per year as against the world average of 2,699 kg per animal per year during 2019 (as per Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Statistics). The average productivity of cattle has increased by 27.95% between 2013-14 and 2019-20, which is the world's highest increase in productivity. However, it remains abysmally low when compared to the European Union (EU), the US and Israel, which have average milk yields of 6,692 litres, 9,865 litre and 11,706 litres, respectively

Why is productivity so poor in Indian cattle?

·         Marginal Activity: Dairying supplements the income of farmers engaged in agriculture. It is estimated that out of the 400 million litres of milk that India produces per day, over 40 per cent is retained by the producers for their personal consumption.

·         Large low-producing cattle: Annual milk yield of these non-descript animals is quite low.

·         Breeding strategies: Negligible pedigree record says, a major hurdle is breed upgradation and animal selection for better productivity.

·         Availability of pedigree bulls

·         Infertility in Bovines

·         Inadequate coverage of artificial insemination services

·         Lack of skilled Manpower: Lack of qualified veterinary and technical manpower in rural and hilly areas

·         Chronic shortage of fodder: The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture in December 2016 pointed out that major portions of grazing lands have either been degraded or encroached upon.

·         Price hike of fodder: Price of fodder has increased due to growing human consumption and industrial use.

·         Inadequate disease control programmes: Deficiency of vaccines of major diseases like Foot and Mouth disease, Brucellosis, HS (Haemorrhagic Septicemia), BQ (Black Quarter), PPR (Peste-des-Petits), infertility, parasitism and emerging diseases like IBR (Infectious Bovine Rhinotrachetis) and Blue Tongue.

·         Inadequate availability of credit.

·         Lack of cold chains: Deficient infrastructure such as chilling plants and bulk coolers to prevent contamination and spoilage at village level is a major challenge.

·         Poor Awareness of government policies and schemes

·         Unattractive career options: Not many youths join the animal husbandry sector.


Aware of the above-mentioned challenges, the visionary guidance of the Prime Minister has led to the Union Government launching dozens of initiatives with focus, functions, and funds to develop a balanced and holistic ecosystem to boost the dairy sector.


Rashtriya Gokul Mission: Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched the Rashtriya Gokul Mission (RGM) in December 2014 to develop and conserve indigenous bovine breeds. The scheme is important for enhancing milk production and fertility of bovines to meet growing demand of milk, making dairying more remunerative for the country's farmers. The Mission is continued under the umbrella Rashtriya Pashudhan Vikas Yojana from 2021 to 2026 with a budget outlay of Rs 2,400 crore. The RGM will result in enhanced productivity, percolating to all cattle and buffaloes of India, especially to aid small and marginal farmers. This programme will also benefit women, since over 70% of the work involved in livestock farming is undertaken by women.


Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF): On 24th June 2020, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) chaired by the Prime Minister approved the Rs 15,000 crore Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) under the AtmaNirbhar Bharat Abhiyan stimulus package. The AHIDF is aimed at incentivising investments by individual entrepreneurs, private companies, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), farmers producers' organisations (FPOs) and Section 8 companies to establish. (i) the dairy processing and value addition infrastructure;(ii) meat processing and value addition infrastructure and (iii) animal feed plant


Besides, the Union Government has also provided a three per cent interest subsidy to eligible beneficiaries. There will be a two-year moratorium period for the principal loan amount and a six-year repayment period thereafter.


GOBARdhan Scheme: To support villages in effectively managing their cattle and biodegradable waste, the Centre launched the GOBARdhan (Galvanising Organic Bio Agro Resource) scheme. It is being pursued as a national programme priority under the Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen-Phase II, where the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation supports every district with technical assistance and financial support of up to Rs 50 lakh per district to achieve safe management of cattle and biodegradable waste, help villages convert waste into wealth, improve environmental sanitation and curb vectorborne diseases. Currently GOBARdhan has been implemented in 128 districts where 513 biogas/CBG plants have been completed and are functional. Another 113 are under implementation. The aim is to reach a target where dairy plants produce their own electricity from cow dung, paving the way for widespread organic farming on account of the resulting manure.

Major Challenge: Lumpy Skin Disease: Recently, there has been considerable loss of livestock in many states such as Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Andaman & Nicobar, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, and Jharkhand on account of the Lumpy Skin Disease. It is not a zoonotic virus, i.e., the disease cannot spread to humans. The virus has infected over 29.45 lakh cattle in 197 districts, in 2022. Of the nearly 155724, cattle claimed by the disease, more than 75,820 deaths, mostly cows, have been reported from Rajasthan. The Central Government, along with various State Governments, is trying their utmost to keep a check on it. Scientists have prepared indigenous vaccine for Lumpy Skin disease.


Lumpi-ProVacInd: The Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Shri Narendra Singh Tomar, in last August launched the indigenous vaccine Lumpi-ProVacInd to protect livestock from this disease. The vaccine has been developed by the National Equine Research Center, Hisar (Haryana) in collaboration with the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izzatnagar (Bareilly). Describing the vaccine as a milestone for eradicating the Lumpy Skin disease, the PM noted, "When the animal is sick it affects the life of the farmer and his income. It also affects the efficiency of the animal, the quality of its milk and other related products."


Universal vaccination of animals: India is working towards universal vaccination of animals. "We have resolved that by 2025, we will vaccinate 100% of the animals against Foot and Mouth Disease and Brucellosis. We are aiming to be completely free from these diseases by the end of this decade", PM Shri Narendra Modi said during the World Dairy Summit.


Animal database- Pashu Aadhaar: India has also embarked on digitisation of the dairy sector, building the largest database of dairy animals, where every animal associated with the sector is being tagged. "We are doing biometric identification of animals. We have named it Pashu Aadhaar", the PM noted. Developed by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), Pashu Aadhaar will also be known as the Information Network for Animal Productivity and Health (INAPH). Here, all animals will be given an ear tag containing a bar-coded 12-digit unique identification number. It will include all the data related to the animals registered, including their species, breed, and pedigree. In addition, it will also consist of information regarding calving, vaccination, and milk production. Setting up Pashu Aadhaar was first proposed in 2015 by a government committee to prevent cattle smuggling. The recommendation came after a Supreme Court direction on a plea against cattle trafficking.


Addressing Fodder Shortage: To ensure that its milk way does not turn murky, India has focused on fodder shortage. According to the International Crops Research Institute for the SemiArid Tropics (ICRISAT), India faces a shortage of 284 MT of green fodder and 122 MT of dry fodder. This demand is likely to grow further, and India would require 400 and 117 MTs of green and dry fodder respectively, by 2025. Already reeling under the Lumpy Skin disease, many states are also faced with acute fodder deficit. Realising how feed and fodder cost could have cascading effects, including the spiralling cost of milk prices, the Centre has designated the NDDB as the implementing agency for setting up of 100 fodder-centric Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) during this fiscal to address fodder deficiency in the country.

India-Future of Global Dairy Industry: Participating in the World Dairy Summit, Piercristiano Brazzale, President, International Dairy Federation (IDF), forecasted that India is the future of the global dairy industry, and it has a huge potential to increase milk output. Hailing the small farmers-led cooperatives model as best suited for dairy development, Brazzale added that "innovation and digitalisation are the future everywhere across sectors." According to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), India's apex-export trade promotion active government body, dairy export was pegged at 108,711.27 MT, estimated at Rs 2,928.79 crore or US$ 391.59 million during the year 2021-22.


Major Export Destinations: Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar are India's principal export destinations for dairy products. Dairy product exports recorded a 58% jump rising to US$ 342 million in Q2 of the current fiscal from US$ 216 million in Q2 of the previous year. The export of livestock products increased from US$ 1,903 million in April-September 2021 to US$ 2,099 million in April-September 2022. Going forward, this is not only about India's burgeoning dairy sector. Stakeholders predict that India will emerge as a leading global powerhouse in the dairy business in the years ahead. Explaining how the Government's initiatives are aimed to protect, promote, and prosper, Meenesh Shah, Chairman NDDB, foresees a bright future for India's dairy business. "The current value of Indian dairy business is close to Rs 13 trillion. We expect this to be more than double in the next five years and reach close to Rs 30 trillion by 2027," he said. Echoing similar optimism, Amul's then Managing Director, R.S. Sodhi said: ``Currently, we are producing 23% of the total global production. By 2045, this may well shoot up to 47%."


Operation Flood: Realising a Dream: At India's Independence, the nation dreamt of rivers of milk flowing. However, it lacked both imagination and adequate resources to scale and replicate the success of the Kaira farmer's milk cooperative as early as 1952. It fell on Dr Verghese Kurien, widely renowned as the 'Father of White Revolution' in India, the first iconic Chairman of the NDDB. In 1965, Kurien was approached by the then Prime Minister, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri, to replicate a nationwide, 'billion-litre-idea', on the lines of what he had achieved in Anand, Gujarat. In 1970, Operation Flood, NDDB's revolutionary project and the world's biggest agricultural dairy development project, was launched. It turned India from a milk deficient nation to becoming the world's largest milk producer. It happened because of Kurien's efforts of expanding the 'Anand pattern of milk production' at the regional level. Operation Flood was launched in three phases across 700 towns, economically uplifting the farmers, pioneering the organisation of Anand-patterned co-operatives in milk sheds across the country from where milk produced and procured would be transported to cities. Kurien's 'Anand pattern' of dairy cooperatives was successful as it was based on using a suitable 'top-down' and 'bottom up' approach. Amul, which was Kurien's standalone cooperative then, refused no milk from a farmer.


Operation Flood was implemented in three phases:

·         Phase I (1970-1980) was financed by the sale of skimmed milk powder and butter oil donated by the European Union (then the European Economic Community) through the World Food Programme

·         Phase II (1981-1985) increased the milk sheds from 18 to 136; urban markets expanded the outlets for milk to 290. By the end of 1985, a self-sustaining system of 43,000 village cooperatives with 4,250,000 milk producers was in place

·         Phase III (1985-1996) enabled dairy cooperatives to expand and strengthen the infrastructure required to procure and market increasing volumes of milk. This phase added 30,000 new dairy cooperatives, taking their total number to 73,000


Operation Flood helped quality milk reach consumers across 700 towns and cities through a National Milk Grid. Every year since 2001, June 1 is observed as World Milk Day by the FAO, United Nations, to acknowledge the importance of milk as a global food and to celebrate the dairy sector. In India, the birthday of Dr Verghese Kurien, on November 26, is observed as National Milk Day. For a man who pioneered a global revolution in India, that is but a token remembrance.


(The author is a New Delhi based Freelance Journalist writing on current affairs. Email id: indiadescribe@gmail.com)

Views expressed are personal