Even as the Kerala government made a grim announcement on Monday that the state was “drought-hit”, its cattle sheds have taken the first blow. Besides the shortfall of 2 lakh litres of cow milk per day, the state has started feeling the heat squeeze on milk production.
In the six northern districts of Kerala, drought has caused nearly 50,000 litres’ decrease per day in milk production this week, compared to the quantity in the corresponding period in the previous year, according to sources in Milma (Kerala Milk Marketing Federation).
“Heat and water deprivation can create havoc on cattle. If a cow that gets an abundant supply of water and yields 10 litres per day is deprived of its daily water intake, the yield can shrink to as low as five litres,” K Pradeedkumar, president, All Kerala Dairy Farmers’ Instructors’ Association, told FE.
According to dairy farmers, to produce one litre of milk, an indigenous breed of cow would need to take at least 20 litres of water per day. In the case of cross-bred varieties, the water requirement could be in a much higher range of 80 to 100 litres per day.
From 47,000 litres per day in the same season in 2015, milk production in Kasargod district has fallen to 39,000 litres per day. Likewise, the milk production in Kozhikode district has fallen from 1,20,000 litres per day to 1,00,000 litres per day and that in Wayanad from 1,66,000 litres per day to 1,58,000 litres per day.
Milma buys around 9.98 lakh litres of milk daily through its 2,859 societies, while its daily sale in Kerala totals 12.31 lakh litres. The shortage of around two lakh litres is met through purchases from neighbouring states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
The drying milk pitcher in north Kerala has rung alarm bells as the drought has brought a reversal of production trends. Kerala had been targeting self-sufficiency in milk production within two years, says state dairy minister S Raju. From a supply-demand gap of 6 lakh litres in 2010, the thrust on nutritious cattle-feed had minimised the milk production gap to two lakh litres in 2016.
The state Assembly on Monday accepted the situation of low rainfall and drought. The state disaster management authority has been asked to seek necessary additional funds from the Centre to tide over the crisis.
State revenue minister E Chandrasekharan, who announced that the state was “drought-hit”, pointed out that there is a shortage of 34% in the northwest monsoon and 69% in the northeast monsoon. “The state will have to go through drought, even if it gets heavy rain in November and December,” he said.
Drought is feared to have a severe impact on the dairy sector, agriculture and the power sectors in the hydel-power reliant state. Compared to the water storage in September-October last year, the water in the state’s dams have dried by 22% this year.
“Besides the delay in setting of the northeast monsoon, pre-monsoon showers have been scarce. The state government would encourage rainwater harvesting measures to minimise the impact of drought,” chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said.
The state government intends to reactivate at least 10,000 out of the total 40,000 private temple ponds in Kerala. All district collectors have been told to stick to water guidelines which include steps to reduce the usage of water, recycle used water and set out priority for water usage.