The Indian dairy sector has been registering a consistent annual growth of over 6 percent for the last several years. We account for some 22 percent of the global milk production with each year seeing India add more milk to the global pool than the entire European community. For a nation, which is still to shed the tag of being a developing entity despite its enormous size, it is no mean achievement to be sitting atop the world in this most critical food and livelihood sector. Further, this position is not likely to be challenged in either the near or distant future.

Some 70 million farmers maintaining a milch herd of 125.35 million — 74.18 million cows and 51.17 million buffaloes (20th Livestock Census, 2019) produced a whopping 187.7 million tonnes (mt) of milk in 2018-19, worth nearly Rs 6,60,000 crore. This is more than the combined value of wheat and paddy, our two prime crops. Starting as a trickle of one to two litres per family in some 500,000 remote villages, a unique collection system has helped transform this feeble flow into a veritable flood of over 510 million litres for rural and urban consumers every day.

The Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying, formed by Government of India by separating it from the Ministry of Agriculture in May 2019, has taken several initiatives for growth of animal husbandry and dairy sector in the country. These include measures for control of animal diseases, scientific management and upgradation of genetic resources, increasing availability of nutritious feed and fodder, strengthening infrastructure for production of quality milk, sustainable development of procurement, processing and marketing facilities of milk and milk products, and, enhancement of production and profitability of livestock enterprises.

Dairying may well be a viable livelihood option for a large number of migrants pushed back to their native villages in the wake of the prolonged lockdown. Given its low capital investment, short operating cycle and steady income flow, dairy could emerge as a saviour of these labourers and marginal farmers rendered unemployed. An added benefit is supplementing the nutritional requirement of the family.

Kisan Credit Cards

During the fight against the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Government of India announced measures under the Atma-Nirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) initiative to boost the dairy sector and give an impetus to rural incomes. These include extension of Kisan Credit Card (KCC) facility to farmer-members of dairy cooperatives and milk producer companies. Interest subvention on working capital loans has also been introduced under the scheme “Supporting Dairy Cooperatives and Farmer Producer Organisations” (SDCFPO) engaged in dairy activities during 2020-21.

A Rs 13,343-crore National Animal Disease Control Programme (NADCP) to eradicate Foot-and-Mouth Disease and Brucellosis is the world’s largest vaccination programme. It aims to control these economically debilitating diseases by 2025 and their subsequent eradication by 2030. The recently created Rs 15,000-crore Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) should hopefully boost investment in dairy and meat processing, and establishment of animal feed plants.

Besides measures for control of animal diseases, there have been other significant initiatives such as scientific management and upgradation of genetic resources; increasing availability of nutritious feed and fodder; strengthening infrastructure for production of pure and quality milk etc.

Pashu Aadhar

The most challenging of all schemes is the world’s biggest project of tagging every bovine animal to enable their proper identification and traceability of their products. This tag or Pashu Aadhaar contains a unique number which can be read in form of a barcode. The unique ID number will be fed to a platform named Information Network for Animal Productivity and Health (INAPH) which is managed by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB). This database will help devise appropriate strategies for effective and scientific management of India’s livestock resources.

To increase the reach of artificial insemination (AI) across the country, the Nationwide Artificial Insemination Programme (NAIP) was launched in 2019, fully funded by the central government. Currently, AI coverage is 30 percent and the target is to reach 100 percent of the breedable cattle population in five years. Trained at accredited AI training institutes, Multipurpose AI Technicians in Rural India (MAITRIs) will deliver breeding inputs at farmers’ doorstep.

Genomic selection

For the first time in the country, genomic selection has been introduced for indigenous cattle and buffalo breeds. In addition, IVF technique for propagation of elite animals at a faster rate has also been introduced. Sex sorted semen production technology, available only in USA so far, has also been introduced. Use of sex sorted semen will enhance milk production through birth of more than 90 percent female calves and will also be important in limiting the population of male cattle/stray cattle.

The Rashtriya Gokul Mission (RGM) aims to conserve and develop our indigenous bovine breeds in a focused and scientific manner. Breed improvement programmes to improve the genetic make-up and increase the stock are being undertaken to enhance their milk production and productivity. Integrated Indigenous Cattle Development Centres or Gokul Grams are being established under this scheme.

A Nucleus Herd of all the indigenous bovine breeds will be conserved and developed at the National Kamdhenu Breeding Centres (NKBCs). Besides being a repository of indigenous germplasm, the Centres will also be a source of certified genetics in the country.

Strengthening of infrastructure for production and procurement of quality milk as well as processing and marketing of milk and milk products is being encouraged through a National Programme for Dairy Development (NPDD). It focuses on creating and strengthening infrastructure of State Cooperative Dairy Federations and District Cooperative Milk Unions.

A Quality Milk Programme was also launched by the Government of India in July 2019 under NPDD to create/strengthen milk testing facility at dairy plants and establishment of laboratories in major milk producing States. The NPDD scheme will focus on improving the quality of milk in the organised sector during the 15th Finance Commission implementation period (2021-26).

Financial assistance

Aiming to generate self-employment, the Dairy Entrepreneurship Development Scheme (DEDS) is being implemented through NABARD to provide financial assistance to commercially bankable projects with loans from commercial, cooperative, urban and rural banks.

Launched in March 2012 and implemented by NDDB, the National Dairy Plan-Phase I (NDP-I) is a scientifically planned multi-state initiative to increase productivity of milch animals and thereby increase milk production as well as provide rural milk producers with greater access to the organised dairy sector.

NDP-I which concluded in November 2019 has been seamlessly succeeded by its second phase. The projected financial outlay for NDP-II is expected to be about Rs 8,000 crore. The primary focus would now shift to improving the milk processing infrastructure and creating market access in remote and unexplored areas of the country.

The Dairy Processing and Infrastructure Development Fund (DIDF) focuses on creation, modernisation, expansion of processing infrastructure and manufacturing facilities for value added dairy products to make milk processing plants more efficient. Focus is also on setting up of chilling infrastructure and installation of electronic milk adulteration testing equipment at village level. This scheme has a total corpus of Rs 11,184 crore under which milk cooperatives will be provided financial assistance.

India’s population is projected to peak at 1.7 billion in 2060 with half of it in urban areas compared to less than a third currently. Feeding this increasingly urbanised population, amid rising incomes, will be a huge challenge. The NITI Aayog has projected the country’s milk production to touch 330 million tonnes by 2033-34. The initiatives by the Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying, if implemented in right earnest, will not only help achieve this target but also lead to the emergence of modern dairying as a full-fledged agribusiness enhancing human nutrition and generating mass employment.

Scientific dairy farming will also help develop a symbiotic relationship between the farmer and the industry. The future of India’s dairying will, no doubt, be a hi-tech one, although its base will continue to be in the hands of millions of small and marginal farmers.

Source: Agriculture Today, February 2021 (unedited version).