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Govt puts milk price on boil

Calcutta, Sept. 17: The government today indicated it might have to increase packaged milk prices after the Pujas if the spiralling prices of skimmed milk powder — an essential ingredient for pouched milk — don’t come down.

Animal resources development minister Anisur Rahman said at Writers’ Buildings there will be no price hike till the end of Durga Puja. “After Dashami, we will review the situation. We may have to increase the prices of packaged milk if the price of SMP is not controlled.”

Sources in the milk industry said acute shortage of the milk powder has led to its prices being almost doubled. The rates shot up from about Rs 70 per kg in the past two weeks, the minister said.

Rahman said supply of milk during the Pujas would not be hampered as the state-run dairy at Haringhata, Mother Dairy and Metro Dairy have, on an average, 10 to 15 days’ stock of the milk powder. “We have requested Amul to supply 1,000 tonnes of SMP at as low a rate as possible. So, there will not be any shortage of milk during the Pujas.”

The minister returned today from Anand in Gujarat after meeting both Verghese Kurien, chairman of Amul, and Amrita Pa-tel, chairperson of the National Dairy Development Board, separately to discuss the situation.

Industry insiders have blamed the crisis on a spat between the two. Rahman said: “Reasons behind the hike in prices are a 5-6 per cent reduction in milk production in north India and unplanned export of milk by Amul.”

He allayed fears of a possible milk crisis, saying: “However, according to our reports, we expect milk production to go up in north India soon and we have information that the National Dairy Development Board is going to import a lot of SMP. So, if the availability of raw milk and SMP increases, the price of milk powder may drop.”

Glare on commissioner

A departmental inquiry has begun against milk commissioner K.K. Ghosal following irregularities found in files handled by him, Rahman said. Ghosal was the ad hoc milk commissioner for over a decade because he had vigilance cases against him.

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