Despite signing official protocol for imports and inspections of dairy processing plants with Russia during the last two years, India is yet to formally begin sending shipments to the biggest global importer of cheese. Sources told FE that following inspection of a number of dairy processing plants belonging to private sector and dairy cooperatives in India, Russian phyto-sanitary authority Rosselkhoznadzor has given a nod for import of cheese from private sector milk processors Parag Milk Foods and Schreiber Dynamix.
However, two years after European Union (EU), Australia and USA imposed sanctions on Russia, following the annexation of Crimea, the exports of dairy products from India is yet to resume. Citing ‘procedural issues’, commerce ministry officials said that they would ask government to approach Russian government to resume cheese exports from India. A year ago, an import protocol was signed with Russia’s Federal Service for Veterinary and Phyto-Sanitary Surveillance and Indian authorities on modalities of dairy products imports.
Following the restrictions imposed on Russia on imports of dairy products from Europe two years ago, alongwith the economic sanctions levied by European countries, Russia has been importing cheese from Belarus, Ukraine and other CIS countries.
Meanwhile, industry sources said that domestic cheese price is at least 20% to 30% more than what is prevailing in EU and the US, thus making India’s dairy products exports not viable. The domestic price of cheese is around $5 per kg in EU and in US, prices are in the range of $3.5 to $4 per kg.
“We have lost crucial time during last two years, thus lost the price advantage enjoyed then. At present exporting cheese to Russia may not be viable in the current scenario,” a leading private sector dairy player said. Russia’s annual cheese consumption is estimated around 2.3 lakh tonne.
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Rosselkhoznadzor had initially approved imports from those Indian farms with at least 1,000 cattle under one ownership. Only Parag and Schreiber Dynamix could meet these norms as the country’s biggest diary cooperative – Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) — popularly known as AMUL, operates through cooperative model where cattles are owned by small farmers. Subsequently, Russian authorities relaxed this norm.
India is the world’s largest producer of milk, besides being a big exporter of buffalo meat and marine products. However, exports to Russia have been mostly limited to tea, coffee, guar gum and processed fruit and vegetables.
Besides Russia, Agricultural and Processed Food Exports Development Authority (APEDA) is also working towards increasing dairy products exports to neigh-bouring milk-deficit countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Most of these countries have imposed high import duties on dairy products.