Mandakini Rathod, a resident of Palanpur in Gujarat used to teach in a local school but five years ago, she took the plunge and set up a small dairy business, borrowing R60,000 from her father. Her business, which started with just two cows reared on two acres of rented land at Dhandha village in Banaskantha district, has since grown to have a cattle strength of 31 cows and buffaloes.
Rathod tells FE she sells around 200 litres of milk per day to the nearest village dairy cooperative society linked to North Gujarat-based Banaskantha District Co-operative Milk Producers Union, aka Banas dairy. She earns R40,000/month from the dairy. Thanks to people like Rathod and a robust milk cooperatives network, this dry district bordering Rajasthan has been India’s milk capital for around a decade and retains that slot.
Banas dairy procures more than 36 lakh litres of milk every day from 3.45 lakh cattle growers in the district, who are paid every fortnight for the milk procured by the cooperatives. Karsanji, 40, an agriculture labourer, had struggled to meet both ends and fend for a family of five; he took a piece of land owned by the Railways two years back on lease to grow cattle and now sells about 50 litres of milk everyday to Banas dairy. Thanks to the additional monthly income of around R9,000 a month, Karsanji who does not have much formal education is able to send his three children to school.
Banaskantha district receives just 600 millimetre of rains annually; growing crops is non-viable here. The farmers having some lands mostly grow fodder, including corn for the cattle while a few farmers grow groundnut in the kharif season and wheat in the rabi period.
Despite two successive deficient monsoon years, Banas dairy continues to step up its operations: it has registered a record annual turnover of Rs 6,112 crore in FY 16, up 12% from the previous year. A decade back, Banas Dairy had a turnover of less than Rs 768 crore. “We do not anticipate any slowdown and we foresee growth in dairy business for another 10-15 years,” Bipin Patel, managing director, told FE. The dairy also has announced annual bonus to farmers consistently.
According to Patel, the dairy gives back 86 paise to farmers from every rupee earned from the selling dairy products. “With the remaining 14 paisa, we manage processing, packaging, quality, salaries to staff and other cost,” he said.
The Banas dairy through its network of 1,422 village level milk procuring societies, last fiscal procured around 36 lakh litres milk per day on an average, while its peak procurement has crossed 49 lakh litres milk per day. The cooperative has the capacity to process around 48 lakh litres of milk daily. Besides Banaskantha, the district dairy cooperative also procures milk from the farmers in parts of Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarkhand and Delhi. A chunk of the milk procured also get transported to the National Capital Region and Kanpur through tankers.