The call for an indefinite agitation for better milk prices, given by the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS), in Maharashtra from July 16 is threatening to get aggressive with several farmer outfits and political parties declaring their support to the cause. Terming the subsidy of Rs 5 per litre to dairies for export of milk for the next two months and Rs 50 per kg to milk producers for export of milk powder as a farce, the SSS has declared that it will go ahead with its agitation to block milk supplies to big cities, including Mumbai and Pune, from July 16.
Ajit Navale of the All-India Kisan Sabha said that they were in discussions with the SSS leaders and would take a decision on participation in the agitation soon. However, he expressed support for the agitation. With several outfits, including the All India Kisan Sabha, Gujarat Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convenor Hardik Patel, Rayatu Parishad from Karnataka, Nationalist Congress Party ( NCP), Dr Kumar Saptarishi, Congress leader Satej Patil and several milk collecting agencies declaring support, the agitation is threatening to turn out to be huge.
SSS spokesperson Yogesh Pande said that the agitation to cut off milk supply to Mumbai will be held on a massive scale. Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna founder president Raju Shetti will be leading the agitation starting from midnight of July 15. “All milk supplies moving towards Mumbai and Pune will be blocked and we will ensure not a single drop of milk reaches Mumbai,” Shetti said.
“We are demanding Rs 5 per litre incentive to dairy farmers as they have to sell milk for Rs 17-18 per litre. The government has not communicated with us with regard to our demands,” he said, adding that several milk collecting companies have extended support to farmers demand and will halt milk collection.
Shetti said there is a flood of milk in the state and therefore the farmer is facing losses. He demanded that the government should procure milk at a rate of Rs 27 per litre through the government dairy Mahananda. The government seems to be of the opinion that some issues may arise in disbursal of subsidy to private dairies and hence Mahananda should step in, he said.
If Mahananda gives a rate of Rs 27 per litre to farmers, the rest of the dairies in the state will be forced to follow suit and the situation could get stabilised to some extent, he said. Hardik Patel assured that milk from Gujarat will not be allowed to go out of the state, Shetti said, seeking farmer support for 6 days to bring the government on its knees. “The Union agriculture minister advises farmers to go for organic farming and to keep indigenous varieties of cattle, but when there is excess production, no decision is taken on milk export”, he said., adding that the state government should intervene.
The state government said for the next two months, it will provide subsidy of Rs 5 per litre to dairies for export of milk and Rs 50 per kg to milk producers for export of milk powder. After reviewing the impact, it will decide on whether to continue with the subsidy.
Last year, the state had made it mandatory for the milk federations to pay a minimum of Rs 27 per litre on milk procured from dairy farmers across Maharashtra. But the milk federations had not been able to pay more than Rs 17-18 per litre to dairy farmers.
Procurement prices of milk over the past few months have nosedived as dairies, both cooperative and private, complain of stock of skimmed milk powder (SMP) eating into their profits. Export of SMP, dairies said, has become non-viable because of low prices and the inventory of unsold stock across the country is estimated to be over 3.5 lakh tonne. Maharashtra alone has 40,000 tonne of SMP and dairies have slashed the procurement price of farmers.
Currently, farmers in the state are paid at the rate of Rs 17-23 per litre for milk with 3.5% fat and 8.5% SNF (solid-not-fat). Lower realisations have led to distress among farmers who say low prices have made dairy business non-viable. Some farmers across the state had also resorted to free distribution of milk to protest against the prices.