Experts Worried Over Drift Towards Privatisation in India’s Dairy Sector


Several leading experts and veterans of the dairy sector in India have recently stated in a joint statement that they are worried about the recent privatisation trends in the National Dairy Development Board which had been engaged so far in advancing cooperatives based dairy development. In fact this trend extends to some other dairy institutions  also, sending strong signals that in future the cooperative sector may receive lesser priority compared to the private sector led by big business interests including multinational companies.

So it appears that we are going to see another story of first the public sector and the cooperative sector being asked to prepare the ground for replacing traditional patterns with industrial patterns and once this ground has been prepared, then it is time to hand over the reins to the private sector led by big business and multinational companies.This is a familiar story of green revolution, blue revolution, white revolution etc. While traditional systems are broken and uprooted to prepare the ground for capitalist path led by big business and MNCs, the rhetoric of development, fighting feudal oppression and justice is used in whch it is very convenient for most to join and applaud. Once the old systems including village level processing, community inder-dependencies and self-reliance have been broken down, it is time for big business to moves into the comfortable and cosy places created for it.

In fact the dairy experts who have qustioned these privatisation trends need to question much more. As oilseed processing has moved almost completely from villages to big industrial units, led by soyabean oil and now palm oil, oilcake supply is increasingly prioritized for exports and big units while small dairy farmers can get much lessr supplies at a higher price. The denial of oilcake to small dairy farmers is likely to increase much more with the government’s recent decision to give high priority to palm oil in increasing ediblle oil production.

With the spread of Bt cotton the health of many many dairy animals and other animals kept by pastorals has suffered if they graze on GM crop residues or are fed GM feed. What is more, with the ongoing change in GM food and feed regulations, these risks and dangers can increase, as warned by several monitoring groups.

There is an increasing possibility of those free trade agreements, or at least the first phase of such free trade agreements, which can be eventually very harmful for dairy farmers in India. At a time when  small landowning farmers and even more particularly the landless are producing milk at a very low margin or when their margins are declining in India, such free trade agreements can be very harmful.

Recently , particularly in the last six years or so, the government has promoted the technology of sexed semen or selective sex technology in which semen is treated and tampered to ensure that only female calves are born. This is likely to be very harmful for the longer-term health of dairy animals as well as sustainability. As the recent pandemic has also taught us, arbitrarily imposed changes in animals, particularly when these are against what exists in nature, can have unforeseen hazards. The impact on health of animals, sustainability and quality of milk and other risks should get careful attention.

The adverse impact of increasing corporatization on farmers is no less relevant in the context of dairy farmers as increasing corporate control on them can result in they being asked time and again to buy particular high-cost equipments, feed or medications which can lead to their indebtedness and eventual loss of livelihood.

As the problems of dairy farmers increased further in COVID times, there is need to be very careful regarding the future direction of dairy development in India. Hence dairy experts and veterans should examine the several troubling and worrying issues of this sector to prepare a more comprehensive review of the problems as well as course-corrections.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include India’s Quest for Sustainable Farming and Healthy Food and Man Over Machine—A Path to Peace (Vitasta Publisher).


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