To recognize the importance of milk as a global food, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) established World Milk Day on June 1, 2001. During World Milk Day, we commemorate the 20th anniversary of its establishment. We can take advantage of this day to learn about the importance and benefits of milk for health and nutrition, as well as the importance of the dairy industry globally.
Food security, poverty reduction, employment opportunities for women, and a regular source of income for rural households are also important aspects of this sector. In addition, landless and poor farmers actively participate in dairying as an essential means of earning a living in developing economies. In the FAO 2018 report, more than 500 million poor people are dependent primarily on livestock, and many of them are small and marginal dairy farmers.
Also, dairy development boosts rural economic growth and empowers rural women. 160 million children worldwide are benefited by milk through school feeding programs ( Bulletin of the International Dairy Federation , 2020). Several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be achieved through the dairy sector, including SDG 1 No Poverty, SDG 3 Good Health, SDG 5-Gender equality, SDG 8 Good jobs and economic growth, and SDG 10 Reduced inequalities. It also helps to transform the global economy and improve lives.
A surplus instead of a deficit
Aside from being a vital industry globally, dairy production is equally important in developing economies like India, where it provides food security for millions of rural households, reduces rural poverty, inequity, and enhances economic growth.
The government of India established the National Dairy Development Board in 1965 to direct the development of India’s dairy sector. During the 1950s and 1960s, India suffered a milk deficit, relying mainly on imports. With the aim of boosting milk production in the country, the government launched Operation Flood (OF) in 1970, the world’s largest dairy development program.
As of 2018, India contributed 22 percent of the global milk production, surpassing the US as the world’s largest milk producer. Milk availability per capita increased from 178 grams per day to 394 grams per day between 1991 and 2018. The milk production in India increased from 55.6 million tonnes to 187.7 million tonnes during this period, with an annual compound growth rate of 4.5%.
India will produce around 330 million tonnes of milk in 2032-33, and the milk supply is expected to exceed the demand by 38 million tonnes, according to the NITI Aayog working group’s 2018 report. Through the establishment of village-level dairy infrastructure, the National Action Plan on Dairy Development vision 2022 aims to increase milk procurement and processing. Organizing milk handling will increase by 41 percent by 2022 and to 50 percent by 2023-24, according to this plan. There will be an increase in cooperative milk procurement from 10 percent in 2020 to 20 percent in 2023, while private milk procurement will increase from 10 percent to 30 percent in the same period.
Income and employment
In addition to providing jobs for millions of rural households, the dairy sector also contributes to the Indian economy, making it one of the most important sectors in the country. The livestock sector in 2017 consisted mainly of milk, accounting for 67.2% of the total livestock production.
In addition, it is interesting to note that milk and milk products made up over 20 percent of all paddy, wheat, and pulse production in 2017. According to the Agriculture Skill Council of India, 8.4 million farmers depend on the dairy sector for their livelihoods each year, and 71% of them are women. A farmer’s livelihood is primarily dependent on crop production for 90 to 120 days each year, but dairy provides alternative employment opportunities all year long.
There are 73 million dairy farmers in India, primarily women, who produce milk on their own. In terms of farmer benefits (International Farm Comparison Network, Dairy Report, 2018), approximately 60% of consumer milk prices go to farmers, which is the highest among major milk-producing countries. 81 percent of the milk in India is produced by 10 states, and 19 percent is produced by the remaining states.
The government needs to come up with a dairy development policy that enhances milk production in potential districts and states since only nine States have milk availability on par with the national level. In order to increase the availability of milk in milk deficit regions of the country, dairy promotion among small and landless farmers is necessary, and it will also help reduce nutrition related problems.
Various sectors of the economy have been affected by the recent Covid-19 pandemic, which has reduced employment opportunities, especially for migrants. As per the 2011 Census, India has 45.36 crore internal migrants, including both within-State and inter-State migrants. Due to pandemic-imposed restrictions on inter-State movement, the latter has been the hardest hit. Their return to their villages will create new challenges for them, since there are no employment prospects at the village level for these migrant labourers.
The State governments have the opportunity to promote dairy business in districts where milk production and availability are lower than the national average through this program. By promoting the cooperative model in these regions, they can channel and formalize milk procurement, which will lead to the employment of millions of people.
It is possible for them to channel funds from the Central Government’s schemes like the Dairy Entrepreneurship Development Scheme (DEDS), National Programme for Dairy Development (NPDD), and DIDF (Dairy Processing & Infrastructure Development Fund); in the year 2020-21, the Ministry of Finance has allocated *3,289 crores specifically for animal husbandry and dairy farming business in India.
Earlier this month, the Finance Minister announced an outlay of *15 crore for the Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund, which will support private investments in dairy processing and value addition, as well as cattle feed infrastructure. In addition to boosting local production and consumption, this will also make the national consumer more vocal about local products, thus leading India towards self-sufficiency.
The role of technology
As a result of this lockdown, technology has steadily become more important to agriculture and livestock — be it Ninjacart (a technology-driven supply chain platform that links producers directly to consumers) or Amul, which increased milk procurement (15 percent) and processing during the lockdown. In these uncertain times, technology has been instrumental in transforming them into growth opportunities. As a result, in addition to constructing milk procurement infrastructure, efforts should also be made for appropriate technology to be rolled out in milk deficit States and districts.
We hope that Milk Day will open a new era for dairy development, reducing poverty, unemployment, and inequality across the country’s most deprived regions. In addition, strengthening cooperative milk businesses throughout these regions will provide alternative employment opportunities for women and economically disadvantaged communities. In addition to doubling farmers’ income, a flourishing dairy sector will help rural India become self-sufficient.