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Paneer costs much more than poultry; here’s why

Still on the fence about whether to cook shahi paneer or butter chicken for your weekend dinner party? Before you whip out that recipe book, here’s a lesser-known fact that might help you make a decision — paneer, or cottage cheese, is costlier than chicken.

Chicken currently costs around Rs 274 a kg, while paneer is priced at Rs 320 a kg — a difference of nearly Rs 50.

Wholesalers ThePrint spoke to pinned the increased cost of paneer on the rising prices of milk. According to an analysis by ThePrint, the rate of inflation for milk and dairy products has consistently exceeded the rate of inflation for all goods and services in the country over the last 20 months.

According to the analysis, the rate of inflation in the ‘milk and milk products’ category of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has accelerated nearly every month since July 2021 to February 2023, apart from marginal dips in February 2022 and July 2022. The data also shows that, since October 2022, inflation in milk prices has surpassed the general rate of price rise in the country, and this gap has been widening.

Data from the Reserve Bank of India shows that the CPI for milk and its products had begun to rise in July 2022 (meat: 3.0, dairy: 5.8), and peaked in March this year (meat: -1.42 and milk: 9.31). ‘Meat’ here includes all kinds of meat and fish.

Meanwhile, data from the Department Of Consumer Affairs shows that the average price of a litre of milk went up to Rs 56.80 on 4 April 2023 from Rs 51.40 on 4 April 2022 — an increase of 10.5 per cent in one year.

A Delhi wholesaler who didn’t want to be named told ThePrint that until 2021, paneer was sold at Rs 220 per kg. By January this year, the price had gone up to Rs 290 a kg. In contrast, the CPI for poultry did not increase substantially — to Rs 208/kg in January 2023 from Rs 198/kg in February 2021 — even though the poultry industry continues to grow in India because of changing dietary preferences.

Speaking to ThePrint over phone, R. S. Sodhi, president of the Indian Dairy Association — the apex body for the dairy industry — attributed the rising milk prices to lower production and the gap between demand and supply to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In the last 15 months, there has been a 14-15 per cent rise in milk prices, whereas in the past 36 months, the increase was only 18-19 per cent,” Sodhi, former managing director of Gujarat’s Anand Milk Union Limited (Amul), further said.

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