The Milk Crises of 2015, India: Farmers Resisting
Farmer leaders from the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), Food Sovereignty Alliance (FSA), Karnataka Rajya Ryatha Sangha (KRRS), South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements (SICCFM), Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements (ICCFM), Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam and the Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective, participated in a dialogue on the ongoing milk crises confronting small and marginal dairy farmers across India. The Food Sovereignty Alliance (FSA) convened this dialogue in Chennai, on October 21, 2015, to chalk out a collective strategy to protect the livelihoods of small and marginal dairy farmers and people’s milk markets (commonly referred to as the “informal” or “unorganised” dairy sector).
A price war is raging between dairy processors (cooperatives and private companies) of the organised dairy sector, to sell milk to consumers at extremely low prices in urban centres. This has been accompanied by a steep reduction in milk procurement prices paid to farmers by dairy processors and the volume of milk procured by them. The current procurement prices, are far below the production costs incurred by farmers, thus driving them into ever deepening debt. Small and marginal farmers, whose livelihoods depend on selling milk and who are the backbone of the milk market, have been hardest hit. This has also severely affected the people’s milk markets.
At the dialogue, farmers were alerted to some of the key factors driving the destruction of small milk producers’ livelihoods. One of the most significant factors is the increased integration of India’s organised dairy sector into the global dairy markets. A global slump in skimmed milk powder (SMP) prices started in July 2014. The slump triggered a massive decline in Indian SMP exports and a build up of undisposed domestic SMP stocks. Dairy processors have attempted to dispose these stocks as reconstituted liquid milk, in different parts of the country, rather than procuring milk from farmers at fair prices. A critical ingredient of reconstituted milk is butter fat. The accompanying sharp spike in imports of subsidized butter fat primarily from the EU and USA into India, is most likely linked to a huge demand by dairy processors for butter fat, to reconstitute milk from SMP. Cheap butter fat imports threaten to further depress procurement prices. All of this has and will continue to severely impact the Indian milk producers, pushing them out of production.
Farmers’ movements reiterate the critical importance of livestock in agriculture and assert how in these times of deep agrarian distress, livestock rearing and dairying are the only dependable livelihoods. The Farmers Movements unanimously and strongly condemn the failure of both Central and State Governments to take necessary actions to protect small farmer livelihoods that depend upon dairying and livestock rearing. We also resolve to take this dialogue forward at State and National Levels and organise against the systematic decimation of small farmers livestock based livelihoods and people’s milk markets.
Press Release Issued By
Dr Sagari R Ramdas, Member, Coordinating Council, Food Sovereignty Alliance (FSA), firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr Yudhvir Singh and Mr Rakesh Tikait, Coordinators, Bharatiya Kisan Union and Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements (ICCFM), email@example.com
Mr Sellamuthu, President, Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam, Tamil Nadu
Mr Chamrasa Patil, President, Karnataka Rajiya Ryatha Sangham (KRRS) firstname.lastname@example.org
October 22nd 2015, Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
For details please read the briefs in English, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi.
Domestic milk markets in India are in crises. A price war is raging between dairy processors, to sell milk at extremely low prices in urban cities. This has been accompanied by a steep reduction in milk procurement prices paid, as also the volume of milk procured from producers by dairy processors. Small and marginal farmers, whose livelihoods depend on selling milk and who are the backbone of this market, have been hardest hit. This has also severely affected the people’s milk market, commonly referred to as the “informal” or “unorganised” milk markets. The FSA was alerted to the crises by its member small farmers from Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh and Medak district in Telangana. In trying to understand the issue in greater detail, the FSA discovered that this is not merely a crises for small farmers of Chittoor and Medak: it is a grave crises that is impacting small farmers nationally and globally. They stand poised to be thrown out of their livelihoods en-masse. Given the urgency of the issue, it became apparent to the FSA that we need to get a better understanding of the ground reality, through dialogue with as many small milk producer farmers as possible. Through this dialogue will emerge a collective strategy to resist the systematic planned decimation of small producers and people’s milk markets. The dialogue is scheduled for October 21, 2015 at the Dhyana Ashram, Mylapore, Chennai.
Read this preparatory note that sets context for the dialogue
Amul has begun to do to the informal dairy sector what the European Union threatened to do to the Indian dairy sector: dump milk and milk products, capture the market and then drive down procurement prices as well. India’s dairy sector increasingly shows signs of corporatisation with foreign firms and venture funds investing in cooperatives and then building chains with forward and backward linkages. The cooperative spirit that drove dairy development in India until the mid-1990s is fast disappearing.