Pune: Milk processing dairies from across the state met in the city late on Saturday night to discuss the issue of milk pricing and formulate a strategy to face the upcoming milk stoppage protest by the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna, which begins from Monday.
These milk processors voluntarily agreed to raise milk prices for farmers by Rs 3 per litre. The milk sector in the state has been facing a major struggle as dairy farmers have been complaining of being paid as little as Rs 14 for a litre of milk.
The condition has apparently occurred due to excess milk production and collapse of milk powder rates in the international markets. MP Raju Shetti, who leads the SSS, had declared a fortnight back that his outfit will shut down milk collection in the State if the farmers are not given appropriate payments or a direct transfer of Rs 5 per litre.
Two days before the protests begin, dairy representatives met for deliberations. The dairies have decided that they themselves will raise the payments by Rs 3 per litre irrespective of the government’s help.
“We have decided to go ahead and pay the farmers more on our own. We are facing tremendous losses, but nevertheless, we have taken the decision,” said Ranjit Nimbalkar of Swaraj dairy in Phaltan.
“Maharashtra has excess stock of milk powder lying in stores unused and unsold. The estimated stock of Maharashtra alone is almost 30,000 tonnes. China, which is our largest buyer, was facing sanctions from the Indian government and they responded with sanctions of their own and bought milk powder from other sellers,” Nimbalkar said, adding, “We are also requesting the government to buy the powder for mid-day meals or provide a subsidy for export.”
Nimbalkar said, “The government has assured us that even if it has to bear a loss, it will provide help to the sector. We want the system to be like the sugar industry where the exports are aided by the government. Our machinery is as expensive as the sugar producing set-ups. From August onwards, milk demand will again rise, but till then, the sector needs help.”
When asked whether the protest will affect the supply of milk in the cities, Nimbalkar said the dairies have planned accordingly. “Many dairies have already sent enough stock to their processing centres in urban areas. This stock can provide up to 2 to 3 days of the urban milk requirement. In an ideal situation, we would like the SSS, dairies and the government to sit down and reach a mutual agreement,” Nimbalkar said.
Aggressive protest expected
Hours from the beginning of the planned milk stoppage, reports came in on Sunday eve that Swabhimani activists stopped a milk tanker belonging to the Warna Dudh Sangh and damaged the vehicle and spilt the milk on the streets near Kasegaon in Sangli district. Considering the aggressive stance of the outfit, the milk agitation may see instances of violence or damage.