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.
Earlier this year, March 6-7, 2015 the FSA was invited by the ICSF (International Collective of Small-Scale Fishers) to participate in discussions held during the ICSF-BOBLME Workshop (East Coast) to discuss the implementation of Voluntary Guidelines on Securing Small Scale Fisheries in the context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (March 6-7, 2015) (See Report). At the Workshop, the FSA shared its perspectives and views on the centrality of food sovereignty in the process of implementation of these Guidelines. This gave FSA an opportunity to understand issues around the food security and sovereignty of fishers, a constituency that we have not engaged with as extensively as we have with our adivasi, dalit, peasant and pastoralist friends.
During discussions at the Workshop, FSA emphasised the need for small-scale fishing communities and fish workers to progressively work towards achieving food sovereignty. It is only through food sovereignty as the long-term goal can fisheries contribute to an “economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for the planet and its people” – the goal expressed in the Guidelines.
At ICSF’s request FSA has shared some thoughts on food sovereignty and the need for solidarity among peasants, small-scale fishers, adivasis and others in a given region. We must find ways to share knowledge, exchange produce and support our nutritional web so that food sovereignty can be asserted by all.
Fishers and fishworkers must be a part of the decision-making process on how their territories (oceans, lakes, rivers etc.) are used. They must have a right to engage in their customary practices influenced by seasonality and other natural cycles and patterns of fishing. They must have the right to practice their livelihoods and maintan their food cultures and traditions – cultures that have been built through experience of being an intimate part of their respective ecosystems (riverine, coastal, marine etc.). The crucial role and leadership of women in achieving food sovereignty is explicitly recognised by the food sovereignty movement.
In the context of small-scale fishers dependence on the market and a centralised import dependent PDS for grain, pulses and edible oil provides access only to poor quality food, destroying health and eroding local food systems and cultures.Movements like the FSA, the ICSF and other social movements working on the rights of small-scale fishers must help build connections across communities to achieve food sovereignty. The connections must aim at enabling grains, pulses, oilseeds, vegetables, greens, fish, meat, milk and eggs to be made available through reciprocity and exchange in local markets.