Budget brings smiles to the faces of Indian Dairy Farmers

India’s milk production increased by 35.04 per cent, during the period between 2015-16 from 155 million tons (MT) to reach 210 MT in 2020-21. Karnataka’s milk production has seen an increase of 72.39 per cent (4.59 MT) during this period from 6.3 MT to 10.9 MT. Though Uttar Pradesh remained the top producer of milk in the country with 31.36 MT in 2020-21, the production declined by 1.58 per cent over 2019-20. However, the production was up by 18.84 per cent (4.97 MT) during this period. Barring 2017-18, milk production was in a declining trend in Kerala in all other years. The overall reduction in milk production was around 1.15 lakh tonnes during the six-year period. There was a decline in production in states such as Andhra Pradesh (3.60%), Haryana (3.84%), Uttarakhand (2.56%), Arunachal Pradesh (27.61%), Manipur (20.74%), and Sikkim (12.01%) in 2020-21 when compared to 2019-20. The Government has been implementing the Rashtriya Gokul mission since 2014 for the development and conservation of indigenous breeds, genetic up-gradation of the bovine population and enhancement of milk production and productivity of bovines, thereby making milk production more remunerative to farmers engaged in dairying. The national programme for dairy development aims to enhance the quality of milk and milk products and increase the share of organized milk procurement.

Meenesh Shah, Chairman, National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) had welcomed the reduction in alternate minimum tax for cooperatives from 18.5% to 15% and surcharge from 12% to 7%. The decision will boost development initiatives of dairy cooperatives and ensure better remuneration to millions of farmers. The total allocation for the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare for 2022-23 is ₹1.32 lakh crore, 0.7 per cent higher than the Budget estimates for 2020-21 and 4.3 per cent higher than the revised estimates (RE) for 2021-22. In real terms, there is no increase in the Budget for agriculture. The allied sectors have witnessed an increase in their allocations. The allocation for the Fisheries sector (₹2,118 crores) is increased by 73 per cent and that for Animal Husbandry and Dairying (₹3,919 crores), up 26 per cent, compared to 2021-22. These steps would go a long way to push diversification of the agricultural economy.

The expenditure on agricultural research has been kept unchanged implying a decline in real terms. This is despite the fact that India’s agricultural research expenditure has been grossly inadequate, to begin with. On top of that, several studies have shown impressive rates of return on investments in agricultural research & development—both globally and in India. The expenditure on agriculture R&D in India has been hovering around 0.3 to 0.4 per cent since 2001, except in 2011 when it reached 0.52 per cent because of higher Plan allocations of the Union government. The amount spent on agriculture R&D is drastically low in comparison to many developed countries and also with comparable developing countries.

The zeal with which the Finance Minister pushed for Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) in her last two Budget speeches seems to be waning. Instead of consolidating the functioning and governance of FPOs, the government seems to have given up the emphasis on these emerging institutional innovations.

Indian scientists at the Institute of Advanced Study in Science and Technology (IASST), Guwahati identified a next-generation probiotic bacterium, Lactobacillus Plantarum JBC5, from a dairy product that showed promise in promoting healthy ageing. The team has also developed a yoghurt using this probiotic bacterium.

One of the issues that still challenge the white revolution is milk adulteration and subsequent health manifestations. The problem is serious to the extent that the World Health Organisation gave the Indian Government an advisory warning, stating that without adequate tracking of milk adulteration, 87 per cent of citizens could be at risk of developing serious diseases, such as cancer, by 2025. Dairy, historically, plays a significant part in Indian cuisines, society, religions, culture and rural economy. Right from the Vedic period till today, milk has always been regarded as the “most complete food” with healing properties for bones, mental illness and sleeplessness. However, the quality is a serious concern for the health and human resource of India, especially as milk is an important ingredient for many dishes across the country. The seriousness of the problem can be comprehended from the fact that the Supreme Court has advised States to amend their laws to make the production and marketing of adulterated milk a punishable offence with life imprisonment. At present, the offenders are punished for a maximum of six months under the Food Safety and Standards Act. Still, 79 per cent of branded or loose milk available in the market is adulterated, the latest annual report by the Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI) has found. The only way milk adulteration can be controlled and stopped is through surprise checks by officials and exemplary punishment. Available home check kits which retail customers can use will be a very important step forward.