By Purva Chitnis
Starting today, dairy farmers across Maharashtra will distribute milk free and stage protests outside every district collector’s office over the next seven days demanding better prices.
The dairy farmers are seeking a minimum of Rs 27 per litre of milk – up from the current market price of Rs 19. The farmers, led by the All-India Kisan Sabha, say that doesn’t help them meet input costs and other expenses. They held symbolic protests across the state, including Pune, Aurangabad, Satara, Ahmednagar, Kolhapur and Sangli.
Prices have fallen as skimmed milk powder exports have become unviable because of a global glut. The dairy creamer is selling at around $1,900 a tonne compared with $2,400 a year ago and the peak $5,000 of April 2013, according to globaldairytrade.com.Indian shipments plunged from 1.3 lakh tonnes in 2013-14 to 16,100 tonnes in2016-17, according to the data on the Commerce Ministry’s website.
It’s the second such protest led by the CPI(M)-affiliated Kisan Sabha in Maharashtra in two months.Thousands of farmers had walked for more than 180 kilometres in a week from Nashik to Mumbai to press for their demands ranging from a complete waiver of farm loans to a higher support price.
Dairy farmers also threatened to march to Mumbai on May 9 and protest outside the state secretariat. The Sabha issued a memorandum to the Pune District Collector, seeking a higher support price for milk.
The issue has been simmering for a while. In June last year, the dairy farmers had staged a similar protest seeking higher prices. At the time, the government promised to buy milk at Rs 27 a litre.
“We incur a minimum production cost of Rs 26.5 per litre (of milk) and this is a loss for us,” said Vitthal Pawar, president of dairy farmers’ association, an affiliate of the Kisan Sabha.
In Pune, not many farmers turned up. Unfazed, Pawar said: “If our demands are not met even after going to Mantralaya, we would intensify our protest.”
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