The recent increase in fodder costs have played a major role in rising milk prices, hitting dairy farmers hard.
Fodder inflation has seen a sharp hike in the last four months, despite the softening of overall WPI inflation in the recent months. The overall WPI inflation has eased to 10.70 per cent in September from 12.41 per cent in August. But the inflation rate of fodder remains more than double the wholesale inflation rate. Fodder inflation in September was 25.23 per cent, while it was at 20.57 per cent in the same month of last year.
The genesis of fodder inflation lies in the deficit of feed and fodder for livestock. The recent reported deficit in green fodder is 11.24 per cent while the country is experiencing 23.4 per cent shortage in dry fodder and around 29 per cent in concentrates. Massive crop damage due to late and heavy monsoon has also jacked up the prices of both fodder and feed to unaffordable levels for the animal owners, most of whom are landless or small farmers. Various reports show that farmers who are solely dependent on the market for fodder have incurred heavy losses.
Farmers across States are switching from crossbred cattle to indigenous breeds whose feeding expenditure is much lower. If this trend continues, it will hit national milk production in a big way in the coming years.
Notably, feed and fodder alone accounts for 60-70 per cent of the production cost of milk, meat and other items. Yet, due policy attention is not being paid to address fodder deficit issues. Only around 4 per cent of the country’s farmland is devoted to fodder farming, although the livestock sector’s contribution to the farm sector’s GDP is higher than that of cereals.
A tiny fraction of the total animal husbandry budget goes to fodder development. Organised fodder farming requires attention. The fodder crop should get a central place within the various agro-ecosystems and be treated at par with the facilities provided to agricultural crops, like crop insurance, minimum support price and other benefits. NABARD must be directed to promote rural enterprises working in the fodder-space.
In fodder supplies, the situation is paradoxical; in many parts of the country there is surplus fodder during monsoon and a deficit during the lean season. This is especially so in far-flung areas.
Therefore, efforts must be directed towards developing “fodder banks” at block level to store surplus fodder during rainy months and meeting the deficits at various levels in other months.
Source : The Hindu Businessline 09th Nov 2022 by By Amaresh Chandra, Purushottam Sharma and Bhishwa Bhaskar Choudhary .The writers are scientists at ICAR-IGFRI, Jhansi. Views are personal