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Dairy project in livestock distress

An ambitious plan to set up a one lakh litre milk processing plant in Hotwar, Ranchi, has remained a non-starter for two years in a state that has a history of stillborn projects.

The government had identified around an acre for the proposed Rs 19-crore plant, proudly labelled the Jharkhand Dairy Project. Today, only a robust foundation stone — laid by former Governor K. Sankaranarayanan — tells the sorry tale of a failed mission amidst swathes covered in weeds.

And the most logical reason for the delay being furnished by the animal husbandry department is not enough livestock to sustain the project.

Hotwar has changed in the past two years though, with a four-lane road connecting it directly to the heart of Ranchi. This means that the site boasts proper road connectivity now unlike earlier when one needed to take a detour via Dipatoli Army Cantonment.

“Had the proposed plant come up, farmers would have been largely benefited. Now, the same has been delayed by two years,” said Shiv Narayan Sahu, a farmer in Ormanjhi.

Sahu added that despite efforts through various schemes for farmers, the state government had not been able to raise milk production amply in Jharkhand.

At present, the production figure is stuck at 15 lakh metric tonnes per annum against a requirement of about 25 lakh metric tonnes.

The state government had prepared a blueprint for the milk processing and packing unit at Hotwar with an investment of Rs 19 crore.

The aim was to promote dairy farming in Ranchi and adjacent areas.

Then governor Sankaranarayanan had laid the foundation stone on October 2, 2009, amid much fanfare.

The function was attended by Union minister Subodh Kant Sahay, then in charge of food processing, apart from governor’s adviser G. Krishnan and then state chief secretary Shiv Basant.

According to plan, the state was to hand over the plant to the National Dairy Development Board within a year.

The board was then supposed to run it for five years by involving livestock farmers from districts such as Ramgarh, Hazaribagh, Khunti and Lohardaga, besides Ranchi.

The national board was to return the plant — expected to directly benefit 41,500 farmers from Ranchi and its neighbouring districts — after turning it into a profitable venture.

Jharkhand has roughly 39.25 lakh milk-yielding cows and buffaloes, which produce 36.44 lakh litres of milk every day.

Despite a suitable climate for dairy farming, the density of milk production in Jharkhand, according to state government figures, is 49 litres per sqkm, much lower than the national average of 83 litre per sqkm.

The state capital alone requires about 3 lakh litres of milk per day while it receives only half, nearly 1.5 lakh litres generated collectively by Sudha Dairy, Medha Dairy, Shyam Dairy and Kishan Dairy on any given day.

A bulk of the supply comes from Bihar State Milk Co-operative Federation Limited under the label of Sudha Dairy. “We supply as much as 95,000 litres to Ranchi per day,” said Ajit Kumar Sinha, CEO, Sudha Dairy, Ranchi.

Assistant director of the animal husbandry department Mukul Prasad Singh said the detailed project report of Jharkhand Dairy had been prepared and work to set up the plant would soon begin.

He, however, pointed out that the state had limited livestock and the milk produced was being properly processed.

“We first need more milching cows,” he said, explaining the tardy progress in setting up Jharkhand Dairy.

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