The milk procurement rate confusion explained

Tshering Eden

Gangtok, 23 Feb:

Milk procurement rate in Sikkim has been in the news for some days now with the opposition accusing the government of reducing procurement rates and the government arguing that it is not reduction but improvement of milk quality.

According to Sikkim Gwala Welfare Forum, Sikkim Co-Operative Milk Producers Union which is better known as Sikkim Milk Union, put out an office order on 14 Feb, 2022, which reduced the procurement price of milk containing less than 3.5% fat and 7.5% SNF from the previous Rs 41 to Rs 35.03.

Addressing a function on 22 Feb, Chief Minister, PS Tamang said that these allegations are ill-informed and the government is only trying to improve the quality of milk. He also announced that from 01 March this year, the procurement rate of milk containing less than 3.5% fat and 7.5% SNF will be raised to Rs 40 per litre.

WHAT IS MILK FAT AND SNF?

SNF stands for Solids Not Fat. SNF in milk means everything except milk fat and water. That means total solids content in the entire residue left after complete evaporation of water from milk. This includes fat protein, lactose, vitamins and mineral matter.

According to National Dairy Development Board, milk fat and SNF are important constituents of milk that determine its price.

In Sikkim, milk with 3.5% fat and 7.5% SNF is the lowest quality milk. As per Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) standards, the minimum fat in cow milk should be 3.2% and SNF should be 8.3%. In standardized milk, it should be 4.5% fat and 8.5% SNF.

NATIONAL DAIRY DEVELOPMENT BOARD

On 17 Feb, 2022,Sikkim Milk Union organized a consultation-cum-brainstorming meeting with National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) officials to enhance the efficiency of operation of Sikkim Milk Union.

NDDB officials stressed on the importance of maintaining quality at society level both in fat and SNF level and also in microbial quality and the need for testing infrastructure and practicing the same in a more technical manner to ensure quality.

The NDDB team also emphasized on the non-tenable pricing structure adopted in procurement. The team was of the opinion that the present procurement milk price chart of September 2021 has to be relooked keeping the market price structure and quality in view.

They said that the chart has pricing for unacceptable quality milk and the price fixed was not commensurate with the quality requirement of the organised sector. The minimum standards in procurement as prescribed by FSSAI need to be followed, they added.

NDDB had further said that at this pricing, Sikkim Milk Union will not be able to compete in the open market. This will make the Sikkim Co-Operative Milk Producer’s Union Ltd unsustainable and sick soon; the symptoms are already visible in the union, they said.

Therefore, there is an urgent need for rationalisation of procurement price in order to benefit dairy farmers and to make the Sikkim Milk Union Ltd a sustainable organization, the NDDB team stated.

SIKKIM GWALA WELFARE FORUM

Meanwhile, a recently formed organization called Sikkim Gwala Welfare Forum headed by its chief coordinator, DR Giri, held a press meet today in Gangtok. Mr Giri informed that after the procurement rate reduction by Sikkim Milk Union, dairy farmers from across the state expressed their dissatisfaction following which they decided to approach the government.

On 22 Feb, they submitted a representation to the Animal Husbandry Minister, LN Sharma. He informed that they had a two-hour meeting wherein the Forum placed their grievances and the Minister assured to resolve the matter. The team also met the Managing Director of Sikkim Milk Union, Dr P Senthil Kumar and submitted their representation.

“There are around 15,000 dairy farmers in the state and the reduction in the procurement rate was adversely affecting them,” he said.

He informed that they were planning to meet the Chief Minister as well, however, before they could do that the CM announced the hike in procurement rate on 22 Feb.

“On behalf of all dairy farmers, we thank the Chief Minister for taking such prompt action. We also thank the Animal Husbandry Minister and Sikkim Milk Union MD,” said Mr Giri.

He informed that their representation had only two points; roll back of the price reduction and Rs 8 per litre incentive to be made available to private entrepreneurs working in the dairy sector who have been supplying milk to the Union for a long time.

“Even though the roll back did not happen, earlier the price for the lowest quality of milk was Rs 41 and now it is Rs 40. We understand that the Union is bound by certain regulations and can only do so much. So we are thankful,” said Mr Giri.