1. On World Milk Day, a look at how India became the largest producer and why it continues to be so

On World Milk Day, a look at how India became the largest producer and why it continues to be so

World Milk Day is observed throughout the world on June 1, with an aim to raise awareness about milk and its importance as a global food. Meanwhile, India has witnessed remarkable growth in its production and consumption of milk and dairy products in recent years and this trend is almost certain to continue.

By: | Published: June 1, 2017 1:59 PM
India is the largest producer of milk in the world with over 150 million tonnes of production and per capita availability of over 300 grams per day. (Reuters)

World Milk Day is observed throughout the world on June 1, with an aim to raise awareness about milk and its importance as a global food. Meanwhile, India has witnessed remarkable growth in its production and consumption of milk and dairy products in recent years and this trend is almost certain to continue. India is the largest producer of milk in the world with over 150 million tonnes of production and per capita availability of over 300 grams per day. In the year 2015-16, the growth rate of milk production had been 6.28 percent due to which total production had reached 156 million tonnes. The per capita of milk in India has increased from 176 grams per day in 1990-91 to 322 grams per day by 2014-15. It was more than the world average of 294 grams per day during 2013.

India’s milk production continues to grow, to the point where it now tops the milk output of all the European Union countries combined. Indeed, the Asia-Pacific region has overtaken Europe as the world’s largest milk producer, with India alone producing one in every five glasses of milk. India has actually been the world’s top milk-producing country since 1997, but in the year 2014, for the first time, it beat the entire EU.

Earlier this week, Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Radha Mohan Singh had said that it is a matter of immense pride that our country is number one in milk production in the world adding that the Government has undertaken several new initiatives in the field of animal husbandry in Gujarat.

On a country basis, after India, the US produces the most milk, and China comes in third. This represents a sustained growth in availability of milk and milk products for the growing population in India. Dairying has become an important source of income for millions of rural households engaged in agriculture. This increased consumption of dairy products is also playing a vital role in improving child nutrition and boosting the livelihoods of smallholder farmers across the region, as they are the source of production for the vast amount of milk and dairy products that we consume.

The success of the dairy industry has resulted from the integrated co-operative system of milk collection, transportation, processing and distribution, conversion of the same to milk powder and products, to minimise seasonal impact on suppliers and buyers, retail distribution of milk and milk products, sharing of profits with the farmer, which are ploughed back to enhance productivity and needs to be emulated by other farm produce/producers.

One of the main reasons, India is the highest producer of milk, is that it imports a lot of European cows and cross-breeds them with local varieties. But the most crucial reason is that India has had a successful decades-long programme to source milk from small farmers through cooperatives. One of the prime examples is AMUL.

AMUL and Operation Flood: Operation Flood is the program behind “the white revolution.” It created a national milk grid which linked milk producers throughout India with consumers in over 700 towns and cities. It reduced seasonal and regional price variations while ensuring that the producer gets a major share of the price consumers pay, by cutting out middlemen. Operation Flood, launched in 1970, was a project of India’s National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), which was the world’s biggest dairy development program. It transformed India from a milk-deficient nation into the world’s largest milk producer, surpassing the USA in 1998, with about 17 percent of global output in 2010-11. It gave rise to AMUL, an Indian dairy cooperative. This movement made dairy farming, as a self-sustainable rural employment generator. It was launched to help farmers direct their own development, placing control of the resources they create in their own hands.

It’s worth noting that the majority of Indian milk comes from buffaloes, not cows (the US is still the number one cow-milk-producing country in the world). According to the joint OECD-UN FAO Agricultural Outlook for 2014, most of India’s milk is consumed fresh (as opposed to powdered or canned).

In October 2016, Modi government had announced a major initiative to improve the milk production by Indian cows. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) had informed about a project where it was planning to analyse a minimum of 40 local breeds of cattle.

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