INDIA is a land of immense potential and opportunities. With nearly 70 per cent of our population living in the rural areas, there is a natural inclination towards the dairy industry, as most rural households have cow, buffalo, goat or other animals for their dairy needs. In this context, India is able to relate effortlessly with this sector that holds a lot of promise both for the health and generation of wealth for our country. Having said this, there are huge challenges that are to be met, if we are to take this industry to the next level.
In India the first attempts at dairy development can be traced back to the British rule when the defence department established military dairy farms to ensure the supply of milk and butter to the colonial army. The first of these farms were set up in Allahabad in 1913, with subsequent facilities in Bangalore, Ootacamund and Karnal. Post-Independence, despite government schemes like the Integrated Cattle Development Project (ICDP) and the Key Village Scheme (KVS), due to the absence of a stable remunerative market for milk producers, milk production between 1951 and 1970 grew by a poor 1 per cent and there was a decline in the per capita milk consumption as well.
It was in 1970, that India launched the world’s biggest dairy development programme called ‘Operation Flood’, which gave a major thrust to milk production in our nation. This three-phased revolution catapulted India from the 50th position in milk production (1970) to the first in just under three decades. Milk production which stood at 17 million tonnes in 1950-51 is now at an impressive 176.4 million tonnes (2017-18) and is expected to reach 180 million tonnes in 2020. In addition the per capita availability of milk which was 130 grams per day in 1950-51 is today at a much improved 374 grams per day. Here it is important to state that the global per capita availability is 330 grams per day and therefore India is right up there with the top ranked countries. While production is one aspect, the quality of milk is another matter altogether and it is here that India has a long way to go vis-à-vis the top dairy producing and processing countries of the world.
Internationally, there are countries that are large exporters of dairy products like Germany (US$ 8,762 million in 2017), Netherlands (US$ 8,467 million), New Zealand (US$ 7,909 million), France (US$ 6,642 million) and USA (US$ 3,433 million). India’s dairy product exports reached around US$ 0.3 billion in 2016-17 and included products like skimmed milk powder, casein milk, cream among others. When we compare India’s dairy exports with many of the world’s leading dairy exporting countries, it is evident from the mentioned figures, that India has a long way to go and is far from reaching its full potential.
After the white revolution, a dairy processing revolution is the need of the hour for our country. Despite being the largest producer of milk in the world, only one Indian company (Amul) is in the top 20 milk processors list of 2018. Even in this, Amul’s market share in world milk production is only 1.1 per cent. The answer to this lies partly in the stress faced by the Indian dairy farmer and the challenge here is to create a superior market for value-added dairy products that incentivises the farmers and investors alike.Today, India is witnessing an increased market presence of dairy products like lassi (sweet and salted), sweet yoghurt, yoghurt with probiotics, buttermilk, ghee, processed cheese and more, however, the percentage of value-added dairy products is still very poor especially when compared to countries like Switzerland, France, New Zealand and the United States of America.
As value-added dairy products take off in India, the challenge for local companies and brands is to take over this space at a fast pace as many foreign players are already showing interest and setting up processing facilities to sell their products in the Indian market. This has tremendous potential.
WE need many more iconic players like Amul if we are to strengthen exports and also cater to domestic demand, which is already on an upswing. Such companies and brands will not only reduce our imports of dairy commodities but will also help in saving precious foreign exchange. These brands need to tap into the consumer’s palate, align themselves with our traditional inclination towards dairy products and there is no doubt in my mind that these will be a runaway success in both the domestic and the overseas markets.
The difficulties though are immense, with nearly 80 per cent of milk coming from the unorganised or informal sector. Ensuring top-class quality, providing sound rural infrastructure and incorporating best practices like superior supply chain management along with Blockchain and RFID could address issues related to adulteration and mishandling along with seamless transition of dairy products from the farm to the processing units.
It is my firm belief that as more of the dairy industry comes into the organised sector, it will attract increased investments and enhance the reach of our dairy sector in both the national and international markets. The Government of India has many schemes to give a push to this sector and I’m sure that in the years to come, all the stakeholders will benefit and help in multiplying rural household incomes.