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With pastures shrinking, India may be importing milk by 2021
India may have to import milk in four years, if it cannot increase fodder supply for its 299 million cattle, as rising pressure on land reduces pastures nationwide.
Spurred by rising incomes, a growing population and changing food preferences, the demand for milk and milk products will grow to at least 210 million tonnes by 2021 22, a rise of 36 per cent over five years, according to government estimates. To meet this demand, production must grow by 5.5 per cent per annum, according to the State of India’s Livelihood (SOIL) report. In 2014-15 and 2015-16, milk production grew at 6.2 per cent and 6.3 per cent, respectively.
To boost milk yield, India would need to generate 1,764 million tonnes of fodder by 2020, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of government data. But existing sources can only manage about 900 million tonnes of fodder – a shortage of 49 per cent.
Demand for private consumption has risen from five per cent per annum in the period 1998-2005 to 8.5 per cent per annum between 2005 and 2012, according to an Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, report. This demand and supply gap has pushed up milk prices by an average of 16 per cent per annum, according to the 2015 SOIL report.
In the decade to 2015, milk production went up 59 per cent from 92 million tonnes to 146 million tonnes in 2015. But fodder shortages may knock India off its position as the world’s top milk producer (it contributes nearly 17 per cent of global production). The milk productivity of India’s livestock is less than half (48 per cent) of the global average: 987 kg per lactation compared to the global average of 2,038 kg per lactation.
The availability and quality of fodder has a direct bearing on the quantity and quality of milk productivity, the data shows. All the three states that topped milk productivity in terms of gram per day – Rajasthan (704), Haryana (877) and Punjab (1,032) – had earmarked more than 10 per cent of their cultivable land for pastures, according to the 2015 SOIL report. The national average is 337.
Currently, all three types of fodder are in short supply – green (63 per cent), dry (24 per cent) and concentrates (76 per cent).
Only four per cent of total cultivable land in India is used for fodder production, a proportion that has remained stagnant for the last four decades. Considering the demand for milk, land under fodder production needs to be doubled, according to a December 2016 report of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture. Shortages are forcing states to now source fodder from elsewhere.
“The quality of fodder is a concern. We are now looking to source fodder from Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh),” said Sudhir Mishra, who runs a dairy farm in Ranchi (Jharkhand).