The Government of Kerala is entering the milk production and distribution through three hi-tech farms to be set up at Kulathuppuzha, Kolahalamedu and Mattuppetty. The urgency: The State has to achieve self sufficiency in milk production by the end of its term of office. According to Sri. C.Divakaran, Minister for Animal Husbandry, Kerala, there is an estimated shortage of 12 lakh litres of milk per day in Kerala (‘The Hindu’). One can derive the following figures from the media reports:
But the two reports appeared (within a gap of three weeks) in ‘The Hindu’ on the same topic show a few variations in figures which can best be clarified by the Managing Director of KLD Board. While the first report shows an expected cost of the Kolahalamedu farm at Rs.11.5 cr., the second one shows it at Rs.15.29 cr. Similarly, the herd strength at Kulathuppuaha will be 230 cows in the first report while it is 200 cows in the second report. Anyway, leaving all these confusions aside, the estimated production from all the three farms will amount to 1.66% as against the present shortage of milk in Kerala.
We are not questioning the the policy decision of the Government of Kerala, but just approaching the issue in another perspective. What would have been the production and financial returns if the Government has decided to invest the same amount of money to support the farmers of the state at Rs. 25000 each to purchase milch cows?
Then, the farmers would have received 12704 dairy cows and if we stick to a modest production figure of 15 lit. of milk per day by these animals maintained by the rural farmers, (Hi-tech cows produce 25 lit. per day according to the Press reports) the daily production would have been 190560 lit. (15.88% of the present shortage) and a single lactation period will yield 5,71,68000 lit. of milk (and the return is expected at Rs. 114.34 cr. (in the place of Rs. 12 cr. from Hi-Tech farms).
|Herd strength||Daily production|
(@ 25 litres)
(litres / 300 days)
|Herd Strength||Daily Production|
@ 15 litres/day
litres /300 days
Add to this, the prospects of employment opportunities and enhanced income level of the rural farmers and their families. (The estimated expenditure of INR 31.76 is for animals and machinery and doesn’t include the cost of land. And a simple depreciation rate of 10% per annum to on the machinery also is worth discussing. The designers of Hi-Tech farms may put forward another apparently appeasing reason that the Hi- Tech farms are also intended to infuse the modern technological advances (though the primary reason for the Hi-Tech farms is augmentation of milk production) to the common farmer. Simply ignore the present state of the government farms.
Still one fact remains solid. There are hundreds of prospective entrepreneurs (both from the state and abroad) who wanted to invest in Hi-Tech dairy farms but were not motivated or supported. And as the PPP (Pubic Private Partnership) is the ‘in thing’ and the Government could have tried to tap in the potentials of the private entrepreneurs on the dairy front too. The facilities of the near-dead Kolahalamedu , Kuriottumala, Vithura or the excess facilities at Mattuppetty and Kulathuppuzha could have been made use of in these attempts.
If you don’t want to rope in the private entrepreneurs or do not want to experiment with the PPP or do not want to shell out the money to the individual rural farmers, yet another opening was still green. The time tested and successful co-operative sector could be initiated to start the new Hi-Tech dairy ventures in the state. The three regional milk unions and the apex body could have done wonders in this area.
And the NDDB’s National Dairy Plan that envisages enhancing milk production to 180 MMT by 2021 with a financial outlay of Rs. 17371 cr. categorically states the effective use of the farmers’ co-operatives. Increasing productivity, strengthening infrastructure for procurement, processing, marketing and quality assurance through institutional structures and human resource development are the NDP’s major components. The NDP insists on the cooperative structure of dairying. The proposed livestock policy also aims to strengthen milk production, procurement and processing facilities by synergizing the cooperative and private sectors.
Interestingly, the proposed Hi-Tech farms are set up with the funds under National Project for Cattle and Buffalo Breeding, (to which the KLD Board is the Nodal agency in Kerala) that ‘envisages genetic up gradation on priority basis with a focus on development and conservation of important indigenous breeds’. The objectives and components of NPCBB focus only on improving quality of breeding services and breeding efficiency of cattle and buffaloes. The setting up of Hi-Tech dairy farms does not come under the purview of NPCBB. The questions remain: Did KLD Board achieve the targets on the cattle breeding front? One wonders how the KLD Board decided to use funds under NPCBB for setting up Hi -Tech dairy farms while many areas in the cattle breeding activities are yet to be upgraded?
Apart from all the above facts, the ethical questions also remain. What is the priority of the Government? Should it produce milk on its own or make the farmers produce more milk and enhance their income and resources? Should the Government be an entrepreneur or a facilitator?