Plant-based Beverages can’t be labelled as “Dairy”

Bovine milk has scored a big win. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has issued a directive that plant-based beverages or products cannot be labelled as milk products. It has now directed e-commerce companies to delist plant-based products from the dairy milk products category on their platforms immediately. A complaint by the National Co-operative Dairy Federation of India (NCDFI) had objected to plant-based beverages such as almond, soy or oats-based beverages being labelled milk products. The dairy industry has been aggressively vocal on the issue with Amul even issuing an advertisement against plant-based beverages encroaching the word “milk”. Growing veganism has led to many established packaged food companies as well as start-ups getting into plant-based beverages. According to a report by Research and Markets, plant-based milk alternatives are growing at a CAGR of 20.7 per cent and are projected to reach $63.9 million in India by 2024. This decision would protect the interests of the 100 million dairy producers in the country. Such products lack inherent nutrition, so they are chemically fortified. They are not palatable, hence for palatability, companies add artificial flavours and emulsifiers. The FSSAI however added that dairy-related terms can be used for certain products that are not substitutes of milk or milk-based products such as coconut milk and peanut butter, in line with internationally accepted principles and the relevant Codex standards.

Stellapps Technologies, a digital solutions provider for the dairy supply chain has diversified into milk procurement and has started sourcing milk for large brands such as ITC and CavinKare. The company also proposes to provide extension services including agri-inputs such as feed, fertilisers and supplements to the dairy farmers. Over the past few months, Stellaps has started milk procurement operations in the Kolar district of Karnataka and Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

The National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) launched a digital platform for dairy farmers to provide real-time information on animal health, nutrition and breed development. The e-GOPALA platform helps farmers manage their livestock including buying and selling disease-free germplasm in all forms (semen, embryos, etc.). Also, the app informs about the availability of quality breeding services (artificial insemination, veterinary first aid, vaccination, treatment etc.) and guides farmers for animal nutrition, treatment of animals using appropriate ayurvedic ethnoveterinary medicine. The app has a mechanism to send alerts on the due dates for vaccination, pregnancy diagnosis, calving etc. and inform farmers about various government schemes. The IMAP web portal is meant for geographical presentation of project coverage featuring Information Network For Animal Productivity and Health (INAPH) that displays State-wise as well as district-wise animal registration coverage against the animal population. This portal will also facilitate real-time checking of coverage and progress of various projects and government schemes.

Gujarat is the latest victim of the emerging viral disease outbreak in cattle, Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD), which has already been reported in at least 12 other states in the country. Several cattle in at least five districts have been infected with the incurable disease caused by a pox virus and spread through the blood-feeding insects. First reported in 2019 in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj, the disease has so far spread to Karnataka, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Assam, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. While there is no specific vaccine for prevention in the country, experts are advising the use of the goat pox vaccine as a prophylactic measure.

India’s animal husbandry sector requires a concerted effort from the industry, policymakers and the farmers for breed development, yield improvement and market access – both domestically and globally. While agricultural growth over the past decade was one-and-a-half per cent, animal husbandry’ growth was five times more. So resources should be allocated accordingly for the sector to maintain growth momentum. There is a need for higher allocation of resources from the State and Central budgets for the dairy sector that provides livelihood to landless and marginal rural households. The market is not a challenge considering the huge population of the country. But price volatility and low productivity are some of the key issues ailing the sector. Whenever there is a surplus, the government should keep the buffer, which should be released when there are shortages. Cheap imports of animal husbandry products shouldn’t be allowed to compromise the livelihood of the millions of people involved with it. There is a need for education in the veterinary space to ensure a sufficient number of doctors to meet the requirement at remote locations. The sector has the potential to improve the livelihood of Bharat and reduce the disparity between urban and rural life.