Milk shortage spoils Keralas Christmas celebrations

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Dec 25 2013, 08:10am hrs
Housewives in Kerala are going slow on their Christmas menus this year because milk is in short supply. The recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the state has brought down milk production drastically to 50,000 litres a day from 9.5 lakh litres in December, according to Milma, the state's apex dairy co-operative.

Not just housewives, even bakeries are facing the shortage heat. Some food brands, such as Monginis, recently introduced milk-based mithai cakes in south India. The poor supply is impacting their sales too. The shortage has forced firms to tweak not just the price of cakes, but also their weight.

"In fact, there is a cost-push from non-milk raw materials such as vanaspati and eggs by 20-30%, thinning the margins," said Vijesh Vishwanath, group director of Kochi-based Best Bakers.

Kerala buys its deficit milk from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, but this time the output in almost entire south has been impacted by the outbreak.

Daily procurement of milk has come down by four lakh litres a day to 23 lakh litres, according to Tamil Nadu dairy merchant AC Kalimuthu. This means there is little surplus to sell to milk-deficit states.

"On the contrary, Kerala was readying for an increase in milk production through special schemes, mechanised farms and addition of productive cattle breeds," said Jose Emmanuel, a Milma official.

The cows that yield 10-15 litres a day were gradually being replaced by breeds that yield more than 35 litres but the outbreak has affected this transition too.

Although there have been state-wide efforts to contain the disease, this has not been easy.

Dairy farmers have been demanding double the compensation cleared by the state government of R20,000 for each dead cow ravaged by the disease.

A cow yielding over 10 litres commanded a price of R38,000 to R42,000 in the market, according to farmers.

Unlike Haryana and Punjab, which have 75% buffalo milk in their dairy sector, in Kerala, the use of buffalo milk is less than 5%.

The NDP Phase I is being implemented for six years from 2011-12 to 2016-17 in 14 major milk-producing states to help increase productivity of milch animals and increase production.

Besides NDP Phase I, Kerala is also an active player in the R914-crore intensive dairy development programme, stringing together 133 projects in 14 states, accounting for 90% of country's dairy sector.