Sales plummet, Milma to curtail procurement

The 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 pandemic has turned the world of dairy and poultry farmers upside down with problems ranging from plummeting sales to severe feed shortage hitting them hard.

The Ernakulam Regional Cooperative Milk Producers Union has said it will procure only 2.75 to 2.76 lakh litres of milk everyday from April 3 from farmers in Ernakulam, Kottayam, Idukki, and Thrissur districts.

The action follows the steep fall in sales. John Theruvath, president, said the apex cooperative had no other choice but to curtail procurement to cut losses. “It will be financially unviable to procure more than the quantity we have decided upon,” he said on Tuesday.

The Milma’s Ernakulam region used to sell around 3.5 lakh litres of milk a day on a local procurement of around 2.75 lakh litres. The deficit being sourced from the Malabar region as well as from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. However, the situation has turned on its head. Now the procurement is around 3.5 lakh litres and sale is around 2.75 lakh litres per day. The excess milk comes from farmers who have been selling their produce in the unorganised sector during the normal times.

The situation has been compounded after Tamil Nadu refused to allow lorries carrying milk from Kerala for conversion in factories in the State following the spread of the pandemic. Excess milk used to be turned into skimmed powder in Tamil Nadu factories in the past. However, a consignment of 70,000 litres has not been allowed into Tamil Nadu now.

Dairy Department sources said that Milma might even consider stopping all procurement or drastically cutting milk procurements in view of the situation.

Cutting procurement is the only way to curb losses. Milma is already in a bad financial position with the fall in sales, Mr. John said.

However, online sale of milk has boomed. There was order 3,000 litres of milk online on Monday. The orders are expected to go up in the coming days, Mr. John added.

Poultry scene

Poultry farming in the State has plunged into a crisis this week with bird aggregators from Tamil Nadu “disappearing” altogether from the State and feed supply drying up, said Baiju Kadavan, president of the Kerala Poultry Farmers Association, here on Tuesday.

He said there are around two lakh poultry farmers, who run small farms with 2,000 to 5,000 birds. They source their chicks, feed, medicines and expertise from Tamil Nadu entrepreneurs, who buy back the birds for ₹7 a kg. However, with feed supply drying up for a fortnight now, the aggregators have gone missing totally. The other poultry farmers too are in trouble because of the feed shortage, said Mr. Baiju

With the farmers in distress, chicken price came down to ₹45 a kg on Tuesday. The problems associated with bird flu in some of the northern districts had added to the speed of the price fall, he added.

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