Punjab MILKFED hikes milk procurement by 25% as dairy industry reels under lockdown effect

April 17, 2020

Man Aman Singh Chhina | IE

CHANDIGARH — In order to help the state’s dairy industry survive the COVID-19 crisis, Punjab milk cooperative (MILKFED) has ramped up milk procurement in the state and is at present procuring around 25 per cent more milk during the lockdown compared to the same period last year.

The dairy industry in Punjab has been sharply affected by the lockdown with private milk buyers having reduced their purchases to a negligible due to no demand from the commercial sector. Other allied problems associated with the lockdown have also impacted the industry.

As per data accessed by The Indian Express from MILKFED, the cooperative purchased 27.50 lakh litres of milk Thursday, which is 26.4 per cent more than the same day in 2019.

On April 1, the cooperative had procured 26.33 lakh litres of milk which was 21.7 per cent more than the same day in 2019.

With the commercial purchase of milk and milk products having been hit the hardest due to lockdown, MILKFED has seen a sharp drop in the sale of its allied milk commodities.

The sale milk has dropped by 24 per cent during the lockdown compared to the corresponding period last year. The sale of Lassi has fallen down by 49 per cent, while Dahi has seen a drop of 22 per cent. However, officials say that both commodities are expected to register a rise with the summer heat beating down.

There has, however, been an increase in the sale of Paneer which has gone up by seven per cent as compared to previous year.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Managing Director of MILKFED, Kamaldeep Singh Sangha, said that the production of milk powder and white butter is being increased with a view of having longer shelf life of products in the coming months.

“We have also increased the production of the milk sold in tetra-packs as this has a longer shelf life and can be stored by people, living in far flung areas. Our sales have also been affected by the fact that the purchase in states like Himachal Pradesh and Delhi have fallen down drastically,” he said.

Sangha also said that to meet the increased procurement of milk, the cooperative has hired four private milk plants in the state to deal with the excess capacity.

“The extra procurement of milk is causing financial stress on us, but then if we will not come to the aid of the dairy farmers then who will. The private sector is beset with their own problems and it is vital for the milk security of Punjab as well as the nation that we ensure that the dairy industry remains robust,” Sangha said.

The MD added that it is important that the dairy farmers is able to get cash to buy feed for his animals else the yield will fall and it will also have an affect on the birth rate of the next generation of animals.

MILKFED has taken bank loans to the tune of Rs 500 crores with the latest loan of Rs 100 crore having been taken in March. The cooperative is now looking towards support from the Centre to help tide the crises.

“The Cooperatives Minister, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, has written to the Union Finance Minister in this regard and I have also raised the issue in a video conference with Union government officials yesterday. The Centre must give us liberal loans and should at least bear the interest element of the loan by 50 per cent if not more. This will help cooperatives all across the country deal with the liquidity crunch,” Sangha said.

Commenting upon the dismal state of dairy industry in the state, president of Punjab Dairy Farmers’ Association, Daljit Singh, said that the state government must announce some subsidy for the industry.

“Exorbitant rates are being charged for cattle feed by the local suppliers because there is no supply from the production centres. On top of that the private purchasers are either not picking up milk or have reduced the prices which are further causing problems for the dairy farmers. I appeal to the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to intervene and save this sector which has been going through very bad phase in the past and had only a few months back got back on its feet,” he said.

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