Homemakers, sulk on Poila Baisakh. The sweetness of milk is all set to sour in Jharkhand from Saturday.
The Bihar State Cooperative Milk Producer’s Federation Limited (Compfed) — headquartered in Patna and the largest supplier of packaged milk and milk products in the state under the brand name Sudha — has decided to jack up prices by Rs 2 per litre. This will be the fourth hike in Sudha Dairy prices since February last year.
Standard milk will now be dearer at Rs 32 per litre (half litre price Rs 17), toned milk will cost Rs 29 (half litre price Rs 15) and double toned Rs 28.
“Increase in procurement, packaging, labour and transportation costs have forced Compfed to increase the prices of standard (full cream) and pasteurised (toned) milk. The new prices will come into effect from tomorrow,” said Ashok Pandey, the co-operative’s Jharkhand in charge.
Speaking to The Telegraph from Patna, chief manager of Compfed A.K. Kulkarni contended that they were also trying to safeguard the interest of milk producers. “We are a co-operative and there is no hidden agenda. We decided to hike prices by Rs 2 per litre on all forms of milk so that the same per cent can be given to milk producers. Earlier, we paid them Rs 19 per litre; from April 14, we will pay them Rs 21 per litre, a raise of around four per cent hike, to help them tide over inflation,” he said.
Sudha Dairy supplies around 300,000 litres of milk across Jharkhand, with its customer count highest in Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Dhanbad and Bokaro. It has three processing plants — one each in Ranchi, Bokaro and Adityapur near Jamshedpur. While the unit in Ranchi processes and packs over 100,000 litres a day, the one in Bokaro has a capacity of 70,000 litres. The Adityapur plant has the highest processing and packaging capacity of 1.3 lakh litres a day.
The dairy units also prepare a host of milk products such as ghee, butter, peda, milkcake, paneer and lassi. Kulkarni hinted that these products too would become dearer. “We have to increase prices of milk products to remain in the market,” he said, refusing to divulge exact dates.
Sashi Bhusan Sharma, the owner of a Sudha Dairy outlet at Bagbera Main Road in Jamshedpur, said this was the fourth hike in a year and he might lose customers to other dairies such as Amrit and Nand (in East Singhbhum) and suppliers from local khatals.
“In February 2011, prices were raised twice, by Rs 1.50 and 50 paise. Again during the September festive season, Compfed hiked milk coats by Rs 3. With such unplanned and recurring pocket pinch, it will be difficult to convince customers,” Sharma expressed his fears.
Their kitchen budget set to soar, homemakers are understandably not happy. “The price of milk is ever increasing. This is must stop if Sudha doesn’t want us to switch loyalties,” said Anita Nag of Purulia Road, Ranchi.
Though sceptical, Smita Ganguly of Baridih, Jamshedpur, said she would stick to the brand. “We have been drinking Sudha milk for years. I cannot risk the health of my family members by buying full cream milk from khatals. But, such hikes in the middle of a month upset our budget. Who will understand this?” she said.
The milk federation has some consolation for complaining customers. It plans to enhance the capacity of its all three processing and packaging plants in Jharkhand. The Ranchi unit will produce 1.5 lakh litres a day, Adityapur 2 lakh litres and Bokaro 1 lakh litres.