ABOUT: Forty-five years after Operation Flood - that made India the world's largest milk producer - India continues to be on the lookout for the next breakthrough in agricultural produce and productivity. As Indias population grows, it desperately needs the next big burst in productivity to feed the millions being adding to the population year after year. What's the roadmap to the next White Revolution? R.S. Sodhi, Managing Director, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, suggests the way forward.
While it is great to take pride in past achievements, one should not rest on one's laurels but keep looking ahead, anticipate, and prepare oneself to take challenges head-on. One of the greatest lessons my mentor, Dr. Verghese Kurien, gave me was this - "In every crisis, if you look carefully, you will spot an opportunity. My insistence is on finding and seizing that opportunity."
Considering the dynamic environment we live in today, I find that the dairy industry is full of opportunities. It is a vital part of the global food system and plays a key role in sustainability of rural areas. The world is currently witnessing significant volatility in farm-gate prices. However, prices to Amul farmers have been rising. The prime reason is that our farmers own not only production but also processing and marketing of milk and milk products. Also, a significant part of their earning comes from value-added products rather than bulk sales.
A rise in demand for milk and milk products is being seen worldwide and the industry is globalising. However, the question of how we can give impetus to the industry to continue reaping its economic benefits still remains.The dairy industry in India is unique. With six lakh villages housing about 90 crore people, dairying is not just a large economic activity but also an integral part of our social and cultural heritage. Its uniqueness lies in its unifying power, in the fact that no other industry touches lives of millions of farmers, of which 70 per cent are landless. Complementing this are Indian climatic conditions that support animal husbandry. Dairy, in effect, could become a great tool for equitable growth and income distribution. What remains is providing market access by offering stable and remunerative prices to farmers and encouraging this generations-old sustainable livelihood source.
We have, over the years, come far from being an agrarian economy to become a more service sector-driven one, achieving accelerated gross domestic product growth. Every economy aspires to grow; growth, however, has a flip side - inflation. Further, if growth is heavily skewed towards the urban side, it magnifies the impact of inflation owing to the income gap. To keep this evil under check, we need balanced and inclusive growth. For inclusive growth, it is pertinent that our villages progress, and if villages are to progress, dairy, an integral part of the rural economy and livelihood, must also progress.
Current Scenario in India
The unemployment rate in India rose to 4.9 per cent in 2014 from 4.7 per cent in 2013, mainly on account of increase in joblessness in rural areas. While the unemployment rate dropped in urban areas to 5.5 per cent in 2014 from 5.7 per cent in the previous year, the unemployment rate in rural areas increased from 4.4 per cent to 4.7 per cent during the period. In this context, the Make in India initiative, which aims at job creation, should focus on rural India to ensure impact. Thus, Make in Rural India is the way to go. For this, what can be better than the dairy sector, a sector that touches the lives of millions of farmers twice every day?
India is expected to see significant growth in milk production. However, with growing demand led by increasing income levels on the one hand and limited scope for increasing cattle population due to natural resource constrains on the other, the sector is likely to face newer challenges. Let us have a closer look at the outlook for the Indian dairy industry.