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Imports on ice cream makers’ milky way

New Delhi, Sept. 23: Ice cream makers want the government to allow them to import skimmed milk powder at concessional rates because of a sudden scarcity of milk all over the country.

Last month, a row broke out when the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) approached the government for permission to import skimmed milk powder.

NDDB gets a major chunk of its skimmed milk powder requirements from Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), a premier milk co-operative which owns the Amul brand.

The seething controversy stems from a highly publicised spat between former allies turned foes — NDDB chairperson Amrita Patel and GCMMF chief Verghese Kurien.

Kurien had opposed NDDB’s proposal to import skimmed milk powder, but the government has now permitted Mother Dairy, an NDDB associate, to import it at a concessional duty of 15 per cent.

Mother Dairy has been given licences to import skimmed milk powder during the current milk shortage. It intends to mix it with butter (the reverse process of making skimmed milk powder) to make liquid milk. This has now sparked a similar demand by ice-cream makers.

G. D. Chowdhury, secretary general of the All India Ice-Cream Manufacturers Association (AIICMA), said, “The association has written to the ministries of finance, commerce and agriculture, to let us import directly at a concessional duty of 15 per cent, as has been given to designated institutions like Mother Dairy.”

“The normal skimmed milk powder price level is around Rs 55-60 a kg and was at that level till February. Now it is at Rs 115 per kg. Unless its availability is increased, retail prices of ice creams will go up and sales will be hit,” said Chowdhury.

“The near doubling of skimmed milk powder prices only benefits middlemen and not the poor farmers, for whom the milk price remains unaffected,” he added.

The association’s members include Hindustan Lever, Nirula's ice creams and Dairy Tops.

According to compositional requirements laid down by the Prevention of Food Adulteration rules, ice creams should contain not less than 10 per cent milk fats, 3.5 per cent protein and 36 per cent ice solids. “Most of this 36 per cent solid is composed of skimmed milk powder,” said Chowdhury. The ice-cream industry is estimated to have a turnover of about Rs 500 crore, out of which about 50 per cent is from the organised sector.

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