Fifteen years ago, India scripted history by achieving the numero uno position in global milk production. This was made possible by one of the world's most successful rural development programmes – “Operation Flood”- which ushered in the white revolution - transforming the nation from a milk deprived country to a milk self-sufficient one.
The annual production, which stagnated between 17 million and 22 million tonnes during 1960s, increased six times to 112 mt – significantly altering the socio-economic fabric of the country, providing sustainable livelihood options to millions of farmers.
With the changing socio-economic profile of the country, demand for milk is increasing phenomenally. Empirical evidence indicated that the demand for milk would grow to 180 mt/annum by 2021, warranting an incremental increase in production of six mtpa, henceforth.
The National Dairy Development Board's (NDDB) efforts to address this gap through the ambitious National Dairy Plan (NDP) is commendable, however, the need of the hour is to chalk out innovative supply side strategies that are sustainable in the long-term, inclusive, scalable and profitable, thus maximising the output that is critical for milk security of the nation.
Need for another white revolution
The impact of Operation Flood was visible when dairy production started to grow significantly faster in the last couple of decades. The organised dairy sector was put on to a new fast growth trajectory through the evolution of the Amul model of cooperative pattern of dairying involving 9.3 million farmer-members in 1996. The emphasis was on strengthening the processing and marketing infrastructures in rural and urban areas. Various programmes in the areas of veterinary services and improved animal nutrition were being introduced as measures to improve the milk production. The result was evident when the milk production increased at the rate of 7.8 per cent a year in 90s.
However, the momentum has slowed over the last decade with growth stagnating at about five per cent a year. Some of the key bottle-necks hindering growth in milk production are:
• Rapidly shrinking and degrading grazing areas resulting in shortage of green fodder
• Increasing feed prices resulting into use of low-quality feed
• Low technology-based system of production in rural areas
• Rise in heat stress among cattle on account of global warming resulting in loss of close to two per cent of total milk
The widening demand–supply gap of milk has placed us at a critical juncture where the need for the second White Revolution is greatly necessitated.
Actualising the “Second white revolution” – Action steps and Challenges
To realise the dream of the Second white revolution, it is crucial that a framework needs to be designed to change the paradigm of dairying from “subsidiary” occupation to “mainstream” activity.
Greater emphasis needs to be on achieving economies of scale and continuous yield improvements.
This would need conceptualisation and implementation of new production models that would inculcate the following requirements of high-tech dairying:
• Mechanisation and automation of dairy farms
• Sustainable measures to provide better quality feed and fodder through developing technologies that increase productivity of crops in rain-fed areas
• Provision of improved seed varieties for fodder cultivation
• Maximisation of environmental benefits through adoption of green energy measures such as re-utilisation and effective
disposal of manure
• Encourage establishment of community-based high herd size farms which would ensure investment in scale-up
thus improving dairy management systems.
However, there are certain challenges which are impeding the foregoing approach:
• Low corporate participation in the production sector which could otherwise bring in the innovation and boost milk production
• Higher costs for provision of specialised input services such as vaccinations and medicines which overshoot the advantages
offered by low-labour costs
KEY ENABLERS OF CHANGE
With an ambitious outlay of around Rs 17,000 crore, which is ten times more than the outlay fixed for Operation Flood, the National Dairy Plan (NDP) could mark the beginning of the Second White Revolution.
Though the focus would be on improving the bovine productivity and improving access to farmers to organised milk production units, some of the key action steps that can act as enablers to bring in this revolution include :
• Promotion of collective dairy farming : Collective Dairy Farming is based on the concept of building “hostels” for cows. It has been successfully implemented in countries such as China and has increased the productivity of cattle, and improved the quality of raw milk.
Development of such models would help farmers achieve economies of scale in a collective manner. This would also result in better dairy management systems.
• Implementation of PPP model : In India, the public sector has been instrumental for livestock development by creating a necessary and comprehensive infrastructure. The sector provides ample opportunities for enhancing production potential, employment, income and growth through public-private partnership model.
Areas such milk procurement, logistics and infrastructure development, R&D, extension services, fodder banks and animal feeding units need to be explored by the private sector in conjunction with the Government. Integrated dairy farms (IDF) can be implemented on partnership models as a crucial component of dairy production and processing. IDFs aim at significant reduction of production costs, maximising environmental benefits, a dramatic improvement in product quality and productivity. The Government should devise incentive schemes to promote such models so as to promote build-up of backward linkages by the private sector.
• Facilitation of knowledge and technology transfer : The achievements of countries such as Israel and Europe in the field of modern and best dairy farming practices need to be emulated in India through facilitation of technology transfer and extension services. Advanced and computerised milking and feeding systems, cow-cooling systems as well as milk processing equipments are some of the areas where joint ventures and strategic alliances with the international technology providers can bring in the desired level of improvements.
• Curtailing of climatic risk to reduce milk loss : Research indicates that India loses close to Rs 2,660 crore on account of reduced milk production due to heat stress in bovines. There is thus, an urgent need to curtail the effects of global warming through development of focused policy on environment.
• Effective utilisation of fodder resources : With rapidly shrinking land and natural resources, sourcing of feed and fodder resources is challenging the very aim of doubling milk production in India. To counteract this, application of newer tools of technology to produce large scale feed blocks, feed enzymes, bypass nutrients and other innovative feed resources need to be enhanced. This coupled with the efficient cultivation and harvesting techniques including irrigation management can greatly improve the fodder production in the country.
A second white revolution is achievable through strengthening the supply-driven technologies which are sustainable, scalable and profitable. This would also require development of innovative and implementable production models that are futuristic, and have a long term vision of producing more milk per cow so as to ensure a milk secure India.
(The writer is the Founder/Managing Director & CEO of YES Bank)