Chennai: After talks with the Tamil Nadu government over procurement rates failed, several milk producers went on strike Friday, refusing to supply to state-run cooperative Aavin.
Members of three different associations supplying milk to Aavin — which procures, processes and sells milk and milk products — have been demanding a hike in procurement prices, citing competitive prices offered by private players.
Two of the three associations, both named Tamil Nadu Milk Producers Welfare Association (TNMPWA), met Dairy Development Minister S. M. Nasar at the state secretariat Thursday. However, they did not arrive at an amicable solution.
After the talks failed, one of the associations, led by Vazhapadi Rajendran, announced that its members will not send milk to Aavin until their demand is addressed. In Erode, milk producers staged a token protest by pouring fresh milk on the road.
Meanwhile, Nasar, who had addressed the media Thursday after the meeting with the producers’ associations, assured that the protest will not affect the milk supply by Aavin.
ThePrint reached Nasar and officials from Aavin via phone calls and messages, but did not receive a response till the time of publication. The report will be updated when a response is received.
Milk producers’ plight
A milk producer since 1977, N Ganesan (63) from Trichy, who was also part of the team that met the officials, told ThePrint that milk producers have been “struggling” in the state.
“We were dealt the first blow when M. K. Stalin signed his first order after becoming the CM,” he said. On 7 May 2021, Stalin had signed an order reducing the price of milk supplied by Aavin by Rs 3.
Talking to ThePrint, Tamil Nadu Milk Producers’ Association (TNMPA) state president K. Mohammed Ali, whose association had staged a protest in January, said: “With the government reducing the price of milk by Rs 3, Aavin is sustaining a loss of Rs 300 crore, and in turn is not able to pay the required procurement price to the producers.”
The milk producers have been demanding for an increase of a minimum of Rs 10 per litre in the procurement price since October 2022. After agitations by producers, in November 2022, the government had increased the procurement price. Cow milk was raised to Rs 35 per litre from Rs 32 and buffalo milk to Rs 44 from Rs 41 per litre.
Aavin in November, 2022 had in a statement said that the price increase in procurement that came after three years, would benefit over 4.2 lakh farmers attached to 9,345 primary cooperative societies.
Though the milk producers remained silent for a while, in December, TNMPA announced a protest outside Aavin in Chennai.
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Private players paying more
MG Rajendran, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Milk Producers Welfare Association, the third association that supplies to Aavin, told ThePrint “The production cost of one litre of milk is Rs 51.44, what we get paid now is way less.”
When the state government is paying less, private companies are giving tough competition. “Between private players vs Aavin, there is a price difference of Rs 8 to Rs 10 per litre. Many people are shifting to private companies now.”
With the lumpy skin disease also affecting the production of milk across the country, there are more private players coming to Tamil Nadu to procure milk, said Rajendran.
The state government’s procurement has also seen a dip, claimed the producers’ association. From 37 lakh litres, it has dropped to 27 lakh litres, according to a report in The New Indian Express. “In several parts there is a delay in the supply of milk due to shortage,” said S.A. Ponnusamy, founder-president, Tamil Nadu Milk Dealers Employees Welfare Association.
The time frame of payment is also an issue, he pointed out. “Most of the time producers get paid only 60 days after supply, while private companies pay on a weekly basis.”
MG Rajendran added that the “three-tier cooperative system in the state is at threat if the procurement price is not increased”.
Mohammed Ali said that at present, just one association has denied supply of milk to Aavin. Although all the associations have the same demand, just one association calling for this protest might be counter-productive, he further said, adding: “An all-associations meeting will be called soon to decide on the next step forward.”
Meanwhile, Vazhapadi Rajendran Thursday clarified that the protest will be suspended, “if the Tamil Nadu government calls for talks again”.
(Edited by Geethalakshmi Ramanathan)
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