World Milk Day was established by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in the year 2000 to recognize the importance of milk as a global food, and to celebrate the dairy sector. Each year since then the day is observed on June 1st. The day is used to highlight the benefits of milk and dairy products around the world, including how dairy supports the livelihoods of one billion people.
On World Milk Day 2020, R.S. Sodhi, Managing Director, Anand Milk Union Limited (AMUL) highlights the role of the dairy industry and that of AMUL in the Indian economy.
What is the role of milk in Indian Economy in your opinion?
Milk is India’s largest crop valued at about 8 lakh crore rupees. In fact, the value of milk as a crop is more than that of wheat, paddy and pulses put together. The dairy industry and animal husbandry contribute 4.4% to India’s GDP. Around 100 million families rely on animal husbandry as a source of livelihood. The growth rate in animal husbandry is around 40% per annum. In fact, the only industry that can actually ensure that the target of doubling farmers’ income in five years is met, is the Dairy industry. With shrinking employment opportunities in urban areas, people are migrating back to the rural areas, where animal husbandry can provide them with decent and sustainable employment.
What role does AMUL play in achieving the target of doubling farmer’s income by 2022?
In the last nine years, the amount that AMUL pays to the farmers for milk procurement has increased by 130%. The number of farmers that we procure milk from has doubled in the same time period. Consequentially, incomes of farmers that are associated with AMUL is already increased by 4 times in the last nine years.
AMUL makes sure that the farmers associated with it receive a stable remunerative price for milk procurement. It provides farmers with cattle feed and also equips them to perform healthy breeding practices. These inputs help them increase their production and thus help them in increasing their income.
India’s move of backing off from the RCEP agreement was hailed by the dairy farmers of the country. What are your thoughts on this?
In India, dairy is not merely a business. It is a source of livelihood for 100 million farmers, many of whom have no alternative source of income. For countries like Australia, New Zealand and some European countries, dairy farmers are already rich farmers looking to expand their business overseas. If the agreement would have been signed, then these countries will be able to export their dairy products to India with zero duty. Our farmers would not have been able to compete with these businessmen. It would cause a huge dent in their incomes. Besides, these countries that were demanding zero per cent duties in India on their dairy products do not reciprocate the same deal for India. So India was not losing out on dairy exports by signing the agreement.
India is the world’s largest market for dairy products. It is also the world’s fastest-growing market. The whole world wants to come to India to export their products. India does not need to go to them to sell the products. In fact, the country needs to look at its own interest. And in this context, it has done the right thing by stepping out of RCEP. Especially because Dairy Industry has the potential to play a major role in forming an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.
What kind of role has AMUL played during the current crisis caused because of COVID-19 outbreak?
AMUL has been relentlessly working during the lockdown period. We cannot possibly stop our procurement from the farmers as their livelihood depends on us. Milk is also perishable commodity so we needed to keep our processing and distribution running. During the lockdown period, we saw a significant rise in sales of most of our products except for the ice-creams.
How important is milk or dairy industry as a whole in fighting malnutrition and hunger in the country?
Milk is a balanced diet that has fat, protein, sugar and all the necessary vitamins. The problem of malnutrition can be fought with very effectively through the milk and dairy industry. In addition to this, India is the largest producer of milk. Indian farmers are quite adept at animal husbandry. Therefore, promoting milk consumption can fight against malnutrition without having to rely on external imports, which is great for the health of the citizens and for the health of the economy.
India, after the white revolution, which was successful by forming replication of AMUL model throughout the country, became self-sufficient in milk production. In the 25 years, with an increasing population, the status of self-sufficiency over milk production is not staggered. In fact, as the population grew 3 times, milk production increased by 9 times. Milk in this manner has provided the biggest contribution to fight against malnutrition in India.
What is the CSR policy of AMUL?
AMUL, as a cooperative, does not fall under the ambit of the CSR law. However, at AMUL, we spend 100% of our profit for the benefit of our farmers. We want to ensure that all the 36 lakhs members of our cooperative are paid well are provided with the best feed and insemination practices for their cattle and that they have healthy animals.
A rise in the Vegan movement across the globe poses a major threat to the dairy industry. What are your thoughts on this?
The vegan movement is not that significant in India as yet. And I don’t think it would gain that much of momentum here. A vegan diet is not nutritiously balanced. India already has problems such as anaemia, stunting and malnutrition. Forfeiting milk and milk products will not be favourable to these conditions.
AMUL ads always feature women farmers in them. How does AMUL work towards empowering women in reality?
Women form a substantial population among dairy farmers. It is often a norm that women in rural India take up the responsibility of cattle care and rear along with managing the households while men go out to do hard labour. Women do this with complete integrity since she is more concerned about taking care of the nutritional requirements of their family.
Of the total farmers, AMUL procures milk from, about 35% of them are women. We ensure that they get more incentive and proper facility to sell the milk, which we hope will inspire more women to take up dairy farming.