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When will Dairy farmers get 80-100 per lit in Himachal Pradesh?

Des Raj Sharma (31), a dairy farmer, is anxiously waiting for the Congress-led Himachal Pradesh government to implement its pre-poll promise of procuring milk and cow dung from the farmers at the rate of Rs 80-100 per litre and Rs 2/kg, respectively, at the earliest.

“At present, I have 10 milking cows and the daily sale of milk is 1.2 quintals at the rate of Rs 40-45 per litre, and if the government promises to offer Rs 80 per litre, why would I not sell it to the government,” said Sharma, who is an electrical engineer by profession and started his dairy business four years ago at his native village Dushra Khaboo in sub tehsil Riwalsar of Himachal’s Mandi district.

He left his job in Chandigarh before starting this venture four years ago. He says that the rate of milk is quite low and if the government increases it to Rs 80 per litre, then the dairy business will get a huge boost and several young entrepreneurs will join it.

He had started his farm with a single cow. He is procuring fodder from his 9 bigha land and silage from Punjab.

He also says that if the government starts taking cow dung at Rs 2/kg as promised in the manifesto, then the problem of stray cattle will be solved automatically in the state as several farmers who desert their cows when they go through the dry period will bring them home.

Sharma is not the lone dairy farmer in Himachal who is eagerly waiting for the execution of this promise of the government.

In the run-up to the just-concluded Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, Congress had made several promises and even media reports had quoted the then Himachal Congress chief and now Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu that if Congress forms the government, then it will procure at least 10 litres of milk from every cattle rearing farmer of the state and the rates would also be increased in the range of Rs 80 to Rs 100 per litre for cow and buffalo milk. The party had also promised to purchase cow dung at Rs 2 per kg.

But now after passing nearly six months of forming the government in Himachal, nothing has been done in this direction to date. Even during the budget session of the Himachal Pradesh Assembly, BJP raised this issue, but there’s no change on the ground.

Another dairy farmer Ravinder Banyal (62) too is keen sell milkto the government. He owns around 14 head of cattle, including 12 buffaloes, at Bani under Barsar subdivision in Hamirpur district and has been running his dairy farm for the past four decades. At present, he is selling cow and buffalo milk at Rs 60 and Rs 70 per litre, respectively, because of its good fat content.

Naresh Thakur, another young farmer who is running a 25-cow dairy farm under the brand of MilkMaster Dairy products in Bani, says that they are selling around 3 quintals of milk daily at Rs 60 per litre as they have all cross-breed cows producing milk with good fat content.

“Congress before forming the government in Himachal had promised in the run-up to the assembly elections to procure cow milk at Rs 80 per litre and if it happens every cattle rearing farmer will prefer to sell milk to the government only. But certainly, the government will purchase it on certain parameters which will be made clear later,” says Thakur.

In HP, the villages are scattered in far-flung hilly areas and several cattle rearers do not find a purchaser of milk nearby. Also, transportation of milk from distant locations to the cities is not practically possible for the majority of small-and-medium-size cattle farmers. Himachal Pradesh State Cooperative Milk Producers Federation Limited (Milkfed) collects milk from outlying locations through cooperative societies at the village level. At present, 1.30 lakh litres of milk is being procured daily which during the rainy season touched 1.50 lakh litres per day.

Around 98% of the procured milkis cow milk having 4.5% fat and nearly 8.5% solids-not-fat. Milkfed has been purchasing it at Rs 31.90 per litre. Milkfed also provides a 5% commission to the cooperatives based on their billing amount for their local expenses regarding collection. Around 50,000 dairy farmers’ families are selling their milk to Milkfed.

Nearly 75% of milk supply to Milkfed comes from three districts, namely Kullu, Mandi and Shimla. Milkfed is supplying milkunder the brand of ‘Him Gauri’ across Himachal to the medical and educational institutes and hospitals. Even the Army in Chandi Mandir is getting its supply from HP Milkfed. HP Milkfed is even supplying milk to Delhi and Mother Dairy on every alternate day.

Milkfed has increased its procurement from 60,000 litres a day to 1.30-1.50 lakh litres per day for the past some years.

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