Celebrating World Milk Day

Dr Mandeep Singh Azad,
Dr Ata Ul Munim Tak
1st June is celebrated every year as World Milk Day to mark the contributions of the dairy sector to economic development, farmers, and nutrition. “In 2001, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) selected June 1st as World Milk Day, which celebrates the important contributions of the dairy sector to sustainability, economic development, livelihoods and nutrition.” One of the main reasons to celebrate this day is to highlight the importance to the nutritional value of milk and how dairy industry adds to the livelihood of hundreds and thousands of people around the world. The day brings our attention to recognise the importance of this global super food and how it is such an imperative part of our diet. Milk was the original ‘super food’, believed to be rich in calcium and essential for strong bones and healthy teeth. However, in the last few years, several studies have highlighted the negative side to dairy, be it the sensation of bloating, the carcinogenic hormone content in milk, or weakening of bones caused by it. A study by Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health also says that high intake of dairy can increase the risk of prostate cancer and possibly ovarian cancer. So, it’s no wonder that some people now advocate a switch from dairy to healthier alternatives like soy or almond milk. Milk naturally contains all three macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein, and fat – and many other essential nutrients that are important for kids, adults, and pregnant or nursing women: Magnesium, Phosphorus, Riboflavin, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, and Potassium. Calcium and Vitamin D are naturally occurring in milk which we know are important for strong bones and healthy development; it’s a true superfood. Experts say that milk offers several health benefits, but only when it is consumed in moderation. If you are wondering if milk helps in weight loss, the answer is yes. You can opt for skimmed or low-fat milk to lose or maintain your weigh.
Though India maintains its position as word’s top milk producer, with production of 176.3 million tonne milk production in 2017-18, more than 50% of the marketable surplus is still handled by the unorganized sector. Of the total milk produced in rural areas around 52 per cent is the marketable surplus. The Rs 100,000 crore Indian dairy industry has suffered a 25-30 per cent dip in demand ever since the country shut down for the COVID-19 lockdown over two weeks ago. While the first two days did witness a 15-20 per cent surge in demand with consumers hoarding milk, there has been consistent fall in demand from the third day onwards. A large portion of the dip in demand is due to out-of-home consumption, which contributes 15 per cent of the milk consumption, coming to a grinding halt. “Restaurants, road-side eateries, all of them have shut down. Even marriages are not happening. All the bulk buyers have vanished. Of course, during the initial phases of the lockdown restrictions, both milk procurement and sales of milk were impacted in several parts of the country due to supply chain disruptions. Information collected by National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) from the dairy cooperatives shows a decline in daily liquid milk sales by dairy cooperatives by about 15% in the Covid-19 lockdown period between March 1-15 and April 8-14, and a drop in the proportion of sales to procurement by about 8.8% during the same period.
Disruption seems to have impacted the un-organised private players significantly as they have a higher share of products in their sales portfolio compared to the dairy cooperatives. It was, therefore, quite logical that the areas/milk sheds where private players had a stronger presence, milk got diverted to the dairy cooperatives as a result of which, producer price also got subdued due to the imbalance between demand and supply. Almost 50-60 per cent of annual turnover of ice cream comes during the months of March-April-May and this year it’s virtually not there. Consumers are not buying ice creams as they fear infection. However, despite the demand dipping, milk procurement hasn’t come down as the dairy cooperatives are forced to adhere to the Government notification of not meddling with the livelihood of farmers. This has led to surplus milk in most states. The cooperatives are using the surplus milk to make skimmed milk powder (SMP) and white butter. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Indian dairy industry was going through a shortage of milk and lot of private dairy companies were planning to import SMP from countries such as New Zealand to make up for the shortfall. The global SMP prices, which had sky-rocketed to Rs 340 per kg prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, in the last few weeks have crashed to Rs 230 per kg, with demand in the global markets also dipping.
Covid-19 pandemic has thrown up the real possibility for our dairy industry to benefit as large sections of consumers may shift from meat-based to dairy-based protein. Covid-19 has made people more aware of the need to adopt a healthy diet. In the present context, it makes smart business sense for our dairy industry to increase milk procurement for making SMP to meet the growing demand for milk and milk products. Milk procurement, during Covid-19 lockdown, despite market shocks indicates that dairies have started building up commodity stocks to meet lean season requirements. India may consider reducing GST on ghee and milk fat, from 12% to 5% to bring it at par with the GST rate for SMP.
This has been a long-standing demand of the dairy industry and will ultimately benefit milk producers, increase rural incomes, spur demand and hasten economic recovery.During these difficult times of the dairy farmers, our cows and buffaloes must be taken care of, as any compromise on their feeding and health care would impact reproductive efficiency and productivity. Both governments and dairy cooperatives should provide these inputs and services to the farmers on subsidised rates or deferred payments basis. The country cannot afford to go through another phase of supply disruption resulting in pressures on availability and prices of milk. Covid-19 crisis has witnessed reverse migration of labour force from urban to rural areas leading to social disruptions. On the positive side, we can look at this as an opportunity; these workers can be encouraged and incentivized to join their family agriculture/dairy farms.