The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Packed milk prices on way up
- Crisis forces government hand, revised rates expected after Lakshmi puja

Calcutta, Oct. 7: Packaged milk prices will go up across the state after Lakshmi puja.

The government will take a final decision on the hike — likely to be between Re 1 and Rs 2 per litre — after a meeting with dairy industry representatives on Friday. The emergency meeting was convened to take stock of the milk crisis.

Shortage of skimmed milk powder, an essential ingredient for packaged milk to comply with Prevention of Food Adulteration Act standards, and the rise of its price by about 25 per cent in less than two months are triggering the spurt in milk price, said animal resources development minister Anisur Rahaman.

“We don’t want to hurt consumers before Lakshmi puja and will announce the hike after October 10,” Rahaman said today. Demand for milk goes up by about 25 to 40 per cent during Lakshmi puja, scheduled for Thursday.

The shortage of skimmed milk powder since early September forced Britannia to cut down manufacture of milk products and raise prices and Metro Dairy to slash supply by 10 per cent. The government had sent an SOS to Verghese Kurien’s Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation, or Amul, for 1,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder.

Rahaman himself went to Anand in Gujarat and then despatched a senior government official with a draft of Rs 3 crore to speed up the process.

“They had agreed to give us 300 tons in phases but till date, Amul has sent only a small portion of the promised quantity. We are trying to avert a crisis by procuring skimmed milk powder from other suppliers as well,” Rahaman said.

All the metros — major markets for packaged milk — faced a shortfall in packaged milk supply in the past three weeks. The crunch was first felt in Delhi.

Besides Amul, which industry sources said has sent the state only about 25 tonnes, the government is procuring milk from small private outfits like Continental Dairy and Haryana Milk Food. It has also petitioned the National Dairy Development Board, which is importing 6,500 tonnes to tackle the nationwide shortage of milk powder.

“We are procuring skimmed milk powder at Rs 103 per kg from Amul and the average cost of procurement from other suppliers is around Rs 93 per kg. Both are much higher than the previous rates of around Rs 70 per kg,” said Rahaman.

Drought in parts of north India and a tussle between the National Dairy Development Board’s Amrita Patel and Amul’s Kurien are the main reasons behind the milk powder crisis, feels the industry. The shortage has pushed milk prices up by Re 1 to Rs 2 in Delhi.

Though Rahaman declined comment on the extent of the hike in the state, industry sources indicated that major dairies — Mother Dairy, Metro Dairy and the government-owned Central Dairy — are pressing for “at least a Rs 2-per-litre hike”.

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