Government must buy excess milk from farmers at higher prices: Nawale

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Stating that dairy farmers across the State are in dire economic straits in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, farmer leader Ajit Nawale has urged the Maharashtra government to buy greater quantities of the excess milk from them at pre-lockdown rates.

He said the measure announced by the Maha Vikas Aghadi government to purchase 10 lakh litres of milk from farmers at fair prices is not helping them as they are only getting ₹20-22 per litre.

“The Uddhav Thackeray-led government ought to intervene more strongly and buy up to 30 lakh litres at ₹30-35 per litre. Furthermore, it must appoint overseers to ensure that farmers are receiving their due from the milk cooperatives,” Mr. Nawale, State general secretary of All Indian Kisan Sabha, told The Hindu.

He proposed that farmers be paid at rates prior to the imposition of the lockdown — ₹30 per litre for cow’s milk and ₹45 per litre for buffalo milk. In order to help dairy farmers during the lockdown period, the State had announced that it would purchase 10 lakh litres of milk from farmers at ₹25 per litre and convert it into milk powder.

“In reality, this strategy does not seem to be working on ground. The total daily milk procurement in the State is estimated at 1.3 crore litres. Now, as manufacturing units producing milk-based products, including sweets, and ice-cream, have completely stopped work owing to the lockdown, there is a huge reserve of excess milk lying about,” Mr. Nawale said.

Besides bailing the farmers out by giving them higher prices, he suggested that the government, through its channels, distribute the excess milk to slum clusters, labourers, and vulnerable communities like nomadic tribes.

Mr. Nawale further said that the Animal Husbandry Department is suffering as officers and veterinary doctors have been diverted to other duties in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Alleging that a number of veterinary doctors in districts like Ahmednagar have been press-ganged into performing front line duties on the pretext of combating the pandemic, the farmer leader urged the government to direct district administration to stop this practice.

“In Ahmednagar, there are cases of veterinary doctors tasked with taking temperatures and screening COVID-19 suspects. While we understand the shortage of manpower, the issue is if veterinary doctors are diverted to such duties, then who is to look after the health of the livestock?” Mr. Nawale asked.

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