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Slew of problems for SUMUL in Goa

Last week Goa’s normally peace loving farmers from the dairy sector displayed rare streak of aggression when they emptied thousands litres of milk near the Goa legislative complex, Porvorim.

Dairy farmers were angry that the Surat District Co-operative Milk Producers Union (SUMUL) to which they supply milk rejected their milk on grounds of quality. Although the original plan was not to dump the milk, farmers in protest and claiming helplessness to situation poured litres of milk on the road. Over 4,000 litres were dumped by about 10-15 dairy farmers from Bicholim taking Goans by surprise.

Unlike other states where farmer’s agitations are frequent and result in violent road blocks, stone throwing and suicides, in Goa such instances of flashpoint are rare.

Meanwhile given a firm rebuke by the government the agitating dairy farmers retreated after which SUMUL representatives stepped in to troubleshoot. About three meetings so far have been held between the protestors and the dairy co-operative in the presence of officials of the animal husbandry department.  Presently the issue although not fully settled is under discussion.

The main reason of the milk getting rejected was that it contained traces of antibiotics. Reacting to the incident, dairy farmers in the state said that, they totally oppose SUMUL’s policy of sudden rejection. Members of milk cooperatives indicated that such instances are inevitable and need to be accepted by SUMUL. 

Dairy farmer Shivanand Bhakre, Gomanchal Dairy Farming Cooperative Society, Sakhlim, a SUMUL supplier says, “The antibiotic was because the cattle were on medication and obviously it got reflected in the milk. The farmers should have been educated and asked to follow the normal waiting period which is of about 72 hours for the antibiotics to flush out of the system.” According to Bhakre the incident could have been avoided if handled tactfully.

Pramod Sidhaye, Nanoda Milk Producers, Sahakari, Sunstha, says that, he is glad he remained loyal to Goa Dairy and never was tempted to switch to SUMUL. “As Goans we can argue, plead and fight with Goa Dairy and get our point across. We have never faced rejection because Goa Dairy is our own. But at SUMUL we have no option but to obey.” Sidhaye believes that SUMUL is not a fair player in procurement given its strict policy of quality which gives no scope for negotiation.

To avoid similar incidents in future several dairy farmers who are a part of SUMUL are demanding testing machines where they can check the quality of milk before supplying it to the dairy. They are also demanding an end to sudden rejection of milk by SUMUL.

The Gujarat-based cooperative was brought in the state sometime in end 2015, to create competition for Goa Dairy. The other objectives of permitting its entry was economically uplifting the conditions of local dairy farmers, ushering white revolution in the state, increasing the milk supply and achieving self-sufficiency in dairy products.

How much have the objectives been achieved? Not much according to experts in the Goan dairy industry who point out that although milk production in the state is improved it is due to the  slew of generous schemes of the animal husbandry department that gives lots of incentives to increase milk output.

 Before the arrival of SUMUL in the state (see table) milk production was in the range of 40,000 litres per day. Currently the production is over 81,000 litres per day with an average increase of  13.4  per cent in 2018-19.  According to Bhakre, “SUMUL in the early months and even until 2018 was doing quite well. But in the last six months the milk supply to the co-operative is come down significantly as local farmers have probably turned to Goa Dairy.”

Milk production in the state is from 176 co-operatives under Goa Dairy and 31 bachat gads set up by SUMUL. In 2018 the bachat gads on an average procured 22,000 litres per day. Currently the procurement is down to about 12,000 litres per day. In 2015, SUMUL was permitted to operate in four talukas in the state. Presently it is free to operate in all talukas and set up co-operatives wherever it can. 

Utkal Y Dave, deputy manager, production, Goa unit, SUMUL, believes that, procurement started declining when milk rates to farmers remained unchanged. “In the last one year, the all-India milk industry faced over supply of milk powder. The milk rates were therefore not hiked,” he says.

According to Dave, with procurement drastically down, SUMUL’s Goa operations have turned uneconomical. “Milk rates are market determined and on host of factors like cost of product, the cost of raw material, operating expenses, etc. With the oversupply in milk powder more or less bottomed out we expect rates to improve in future.”

Dave adds that the latest incident of 4,000 litres of milk getting rejected seems to have occurred because of misconceptions. He says that, Goan dairy farmers although aware of the co-operative’s quality standards obviously need to be educated on ways of avoiding rejection.

According to Dave, the testing of milk takes place at all the bachat gads and 15 collection points where the bulk cooling units (BCUs) are located. The milk is tested by weights, fat content and  alcohol content at the collection center, while the more higher tests for acidity, etc,., are done at the plant at Kundaim. “Although farmers are asking for testing machines most of the tests can only be performed in the laboratory and not in the village dairy sheds,” he says.

Dave concedes that SUMUL is finding the going tough in the state and has not been able to replicate its model successful among local farmers. The co-operative is invested considerable in setting up BCUs and increasing the capacity of the Kundaim unit but currently has to run the unit below capacity, he says.

“Our experience shows that most of the local dairy farmers who joined us were expecting benefits and financial incentives.  However as a co-operative we work on no-profit-no-loss policy and are not authorized to give financial incentives.”

Dave adds that, unlike Goa Dairy that has not given any bonus to members, farmers who are part of SUMUL have received bonus. “While our operations here are in loss in other states we are doing well and therefore able to sustain Goa operations,” he says. Dave adds that, bonus is determined on the quality and quantity of milk supplied by a member to the cooperative.

SUMUL market share 40 per cent in Goa

SUMUL or Surat District Co-operative Milk Producers Union is a member of Amul- the largest milk co-operative of Asia. Its products are sold under the Amul brand name and are freely available. Sales are through smart Amul retail outlets. According to Utkal Y Dave, deputy manager, production, Goa unit, SUMUL, the dairy sells approximately 40,000 litres per day in the market compared to 70,000 litres per day of Goa Dairy. The third largest market share is said to be of Karnataka based Nandini, which sells about 35,000 litres per day in the state.

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