India is an ancient civilisation that has been constantly evolving over thousands of years. The biggest asset of this nation is the wisdom of its people which has been shaped and passed on from one generation to next — from parents to their children and from gurus to their pupils. The recent advent of newer technologies has sped up this process of sharing information and the wealth of knowledge.

Thus, the cultural heritage considered lost at one time, has returned like a comet in space. The evidence is not far — look at the spread of yoga, natural remedies, healthy eating etc. However, the ignorance piled through a thousand years of external influences has left a huge mass of population in poverty and ignorance who are yet to see any benefits from the wealth of knowledge and wisdom that the nation was once known for.

Immediate Past

India was a land of milk and honey, but in the world of dairying, the urbanisation around Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Chennai from18th century onward led to shifting of the best pedigree buffaloes and cows to these places to meet urban demand for milk. These high pedigree animals were sold for meat and skin, once they had been exploited for a few lactations.

Obviously the productivity of residual stock fell rapidly and ultimately over a period of century and a half we were left with poor pedigree animals.

This cycle needed to be reversed and reversed quickly. Operation Flood was a strategic plan that envisaged marketing as a driving force to make investments in procurement and processing structures viable. It also envisaged the creation of input structures as the dairy business got organised.

Under Operation Flood Phase I to III about Rs. 2,000 crore was invested between 1970-94 to organise village dairy cooperative societies with their own district milk unions and marketing federations and also provide various input services such as artificial insemination, cross breeding, feed mills and farmers’ education. Operation Flood was the most successful development project ever undertaken. Milk production went up from 20 million tonnes to almost 95 million tonnes in 25 years.

The credit for success of Operation Flood goes to enlightened political leadership at that time, millions of our milk producers, and particularly Dr V. Kurien who laid the foundation and dedicated his life to build the modern dairy industry.

But for Dr Kurien, we would never have reached where we are today. If we are now drinking an average of 110 kg milk every year and the average life span of an Indian is now nearing seventies, the credit goes to Dr Kurien and his team who worked tirelessly for five decades to make India the largest producer and consumer of milk in the world.

However, in a new liberalised environment from 1992-2012, the investment in marketing was left to market and investment in procurement and productivity improvement was totally neglected.

Private industry had neither the will nor wherewithal to provide such input services; and cooperatives that were trying to continue the practice were not given the required support or focus. The government of the time was pre-occupied with liberalisation, privatisation, and globalisation and failed to find the funds required for the National Dairy Plan.

The Present

If you read the speeches given by stalwarts in various dairy conferences, they all anticipated slower growth rate in milk production during 2000-2015 and gap in demand and supply in the era post Dr Kurien. But the farmers of India have proved them wrong again.

Despite the lack of funding and support, milk production in India steadily increased and has crossed the 145 million tonne mark in 2014-15.


Milk – Premium Food

Ask any Indian mother as to the best foods for her family and she will, without any doubt say milk, pure ghee, dry fruits like almonds, figs, cashew and saffron among others. Milk is a premium food for any Indian, and milk products are savoured in every day meals by families irrespective of their caste and creed. Whereas Indian food varies across region to region, milk is the most commonly consumed food pan India.

The consumption of milk in the nation is growing and that is being driven by several factors, such as growth in disposable incomes, generational shifts to convenience and the affordability of milk. If milk is made affordable to the all strata of society in India, this nation has the capacity to consume the entire world’s milk production. Such is the demand potential. It is envisaged that in the best business scenario before the turn of the century, India can produce over 750 million tonnes of milk which is almost equal to the present day world milk production.

The Future Course to Prosperity

The issue therefore, is not the demand potential for milk in this country but rather, how to make it affordable to all through a cost efficient, safe and sound supply chain. We have managed good growth in milk production since 1970. Do remember that most of this growth was achieved when access to power, roads, irrigation, medical services were not readily available. Modern breeding technologies such as artificial insemination were available only to cover small numbers. All this is now changing for the better. Several bulk milk coolers are getting installed every day and artificial insemination coverage is being slowly stepped up along with improving fodder availability as a result of liberalised trade.

The next hurdle in making milk affordable is consistent quality and higher animal productivity. While India progressed since 1991 in other areas of the economy, precious time was lost by dairy institutions in prioritizing the deployment of breeding initiatives such as artificial insemination or large scale investment in progeny testing to boost productivity of indigenous breeds. Sexed semen technology is still not deployed for indigenous breeds (including buffaloes) and import and use of sexed semen is minimal. Such technologies are required to be deployed quicker with prioritised investment, the entire continent will benefit as we have all ingredients in place to produce huge volume of milk and the supporting demand for it.

Yet even today the speed of action is slow. The programmes on productivity enhancement are not being taken up in a mission mode, but projects are going on in a bureaucratic fashion. We need to change this. The responsibility and accountability is missing.

India’s population is expected to grow to about 1,550 million by 2050 and 1,700 million by 2100. Such a young nation is an ideal market for liquid milk and milk products. In my view, up to year 2050, the market for liquid milk is going to grow continuously driven by the population growth and the increased consumption per capita. Consider this: in 1970 per capita consumption of milk was about 100 grams per day which has now reached 300 grams per day.

Our per capita consumption hence is now around 110 kg per year which is close to the world average. If a nation like US can consume 250 kg of milk per capita per year or if Finland can consume 500 kg per capita per year then there is no reason as to why a growing nation such as India should not consume 300 kg of milk per capita per year.

The point being made here is that India will continue to remain an ever expanding market for liquid milk and milk products till 2050 and beyond The caveat is that we should continue to make milk and milk products available, affordable, invest in expanding the cold chain add value and ensure convenient access and delivery of milk and milk products for the consumers.

We need to install nearly 200,000 bulk milk coolers, automated milk weighing and testing systems in our villages. This can be further integrated with the bank branches to make direct payments to farmers for milk and other produce. All expenditure incurred for such infrastructure should be part of a visionary central scheme, as it is critical to ensure quality milk, boost productivity and generate employment.

Even as packaged fluid milk market is growing and replacing loose milk, the market for long life milk will expand multi-fold, as it emerges as a more convenient way to consume packaged milk. Although bulk vending is more eco-friendly, the city planning schemes have neglected the necessity of having bulk vending milk parlours at reasonable distances to serve residential areas. Such provisions should be made part of the town planning scheme or building regulations.

It is important to recognise that this marketing opportunity will not be here forever. There are a variety of products indirectly competing against dairy in the nourishment market and once a market is lost to an unhealthy substitute such as the cola, it will be very difficult to reverse that trend. Instead of running marketing campaigns with glowing skins and glamour, this is the time to impart serious scientific information through social and mass media to influence the market towards the healthy choice.

The tremendous potential for milk and milk products in India combined with easy availability of skilled rural manpower required for rearing milk animals will result in huge production of agri by-products such as oil cakes. The export market for such products puts India in a unique position in this century to tap the growing demand for milk and the by-products locally as well as in the neighbouring markets.

Let there be no doubt about the demand, the market or even the ability to produce to meet our demand. What is needed is a helping hand in the form of a set of government policies to protect and boost domestic production and provide investment on improving genetic stocks.

The opportunity is vast but the right and timely investment is essential if India is to capitalise on this unique opportunity. The need for investment in dairy industry, especially to boost animal productivity and milk processing capacities is urgent and essential. Today there is a huge population that is used to drinking millions of tonnes of milk, at the threshold of development and on the supply side a huge number of proven breeds of milch animals along with millions of skilled rural folk to employ.

Such timing is rare and this part of history will not be repeated. This is the onset of golden period of Indian dairy industry. Let us seize this opportunity of the real white revolution with all enlightenment and excellence to make this country the land of milk and honey again.