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DT Interview: All is fair and white with Aavin, says Mano Thangaraj

Seeking to respond to the allegations and criticisms during an exhaustive interview with DT Next, the Minister said Aavin will reach its peak in another six months.

DT Interview: All is fair and white with Aavin, says Mano Thangaraj

Milk and Dairy Development Minister Mano Thangaraj; Aavin Milk 

CHENNAI: Despite facing a barrage of criticisms from opposition parties and others, Milk and Dairy Development Minister Mano Thangaraj says all is well with Aavin sales.

Q: What's ailing Aavin?

A: Aavin operates based on two primary objectives: Aavin provides minimum support price (MSP) for the milk procured from farmers. It also operates on the basis of providing quality and hygienic milk to consumers at low prices. In the previous AIADMK regime, Aavin had deviated from these objectives. The challenge for milk production across India is the shrinking area of arable land and the decline in the number of livestock and farmers. During the last 10 years of AIADMK rule, no effort was made to correct the challenges faced in the dairy sector and increase milk production.

Now, many achievements are being made silently. Late chief minister J Jayalalithaa's scheme to provide cattle to farmers was a failure. Instead, we are providing loans to farmers at low interest rates.

Q: BJP State president K Annamalai published the results of a study that claimed that the fat content in cow's milk was lower than the prescribed level. Milk Agents Association president SA Ponnusamy has also raised serious allegations. How do you respond?

A: Annamalai's accusations are nonsensical. If the milk is transferred from a packet to a bottle, the fats will stick to it. So if the baby bottle milk is taken to the lab, it will show less fat. Annamalai criticises the government using incomplete research results.

There is no need to answer the frivolous queries raised by Annamalai, who threatens that ED will come. Will the ED come and cut off my nose? Whatever responsibility I take up, I do it with full commitment. Whatever the task, I will complete it with full effort.

In the case of Ponnusamy, I don't know who he is. He has nothing to do with Aavin. He is not an Aavin agent. We are considering taking legal action against Ponnusamy.

Q: Many political leaders, including opposition leader Edappadi K Palaniswami, have insisted that the sale of green milk sachets should not be stopped...

A: Innovations should be introduced to suit the times. There is no commercial reason for discontinuing green milk sachets. It is being discontinued following scientific advice that the public does not need extra fat.

Q: Some allege the problem ailing Aavin has not been resolved despite the change of ministers and officials in the DMK regime...

A: Compared to the AIADMK regime, the sale of milk and milk products has increased under the DMK government. After the DMK came to power, the corrupt administrators and agents were chased away. After I came in, we gave everyone a 38 per cent dearness allowance and a 20 per cent bonus.

Q: Were you upset when you were moved from IT to the Dairy department?

A: As a Minister, I have to follow the Chief Minister’s instructions. I worked hard for two years and brought in many reforms in the IT sector. But I am doing better in the Dairy sector, which is a production sector and not a service sector. Through this, the GDP of the agricultural sector will increase significantly in the coming years. Milk production will increase in the near future.

Q: Aavin's competitors Amul and Nandini are also procuring milk in Tamil Nadu. When will Aavin overtake them?

A: Aavin will surely beat the growth of Amul and Nandini. I need some time, as I took charge only six months ago. While many private milk companies are shutting down, Aavin's finances are stabilising [because] people have faith in us. In another six months, Aavin will reach its peak.

Q: Aavin products are not available in many places. What steps have been taken to correct it?

A: We are adjusting the distribution of Aavin. We are fixing all the issues step by step. In the coming days, all products will be available everywhere.

Q: Any plans to introduce new brands and products?

A: We are popularising and developing existing brands and are developing SOP for all the brands currently in circulation. We will introduce new brands if the demand arises in future.

Q: What happened to the farmers' demand to increase the milk procurement price?

A: The government is considering providing equal to or higher procurement price than that of the private sector, which is the main demand put forth by the farmers. Dairy farmers can expect a good announcement from Chief Minister Stalin soon.

But procuring quality milk from farmers is a big challenge. To fix that, we have deployed 4,000 analyzers on a wartime basis and have also taken steps to procure 6,000 more analyzers. Due to these steps, the procurement price has gone up to Rs 34 per litre of milk from the earlier rate of Rs 28 per litre.

Q: Regarding the complaint that the procurement price is not being paid on time...

A: It is a blatant lie that the payment for milk procurement was not made on time. The farmers are fully paid within 10 days of procurement. Aavin is also providing fodder containing 16 types of nutrients to the farmers. During the previous regime, 12,000 cooperative societies were paralyzed, which was the biggest challenge for milk production and procurement. We are gradually fixing it. In the last three months, appropriate training has been provided to all types of co-operative society administrators and the issue is addressed. Aavin milk products distribution has increased from 1.52 crore in the previous regime to 2.40 crore now.

Q: What is the reason for the decline in milk procurement?

A: Milk procurement was only slightly higher during the COVID-19 period. Post-COVID, there has been a decline in the number of cattle and milk production. Currently, an average of 30 lakh litres of milk is being procured daily. There is no shortage of milk now. After I took charge, daily sales increased from 50,000 to 60,000 sachets of milk. Therefore, the allegations that milk procurement and sales have gone down are completely false.

Q: If milk procurement has increased, why should we import milk powder and other products from Maharashtra, Rajasthan and other states?

A: Cow's milk procured for steaming has less than five per cent fat content. Milk powder is imported to compensate for that. In Chennai, the number of buyers of green sachets is only 30 per cent. We have now reduced the heavy losses in Chennai to only a quarter of the previous loss. Aavin is taking steps to operate without loss in the coming days.

Q: About the news that the milk price has been increased by Rs 3 per litre and the company has lost crores...?

A: Additional expenses cannot be treated as losses. Every day, Rs 1.80 crore loss is added to Aavin. This cannot be taken as a loss because the consumers are benefitting. It is not true that Aavin is limping. Why should people buy high-fat cream milk? Most doctors advise against drinking high-fat milk. When we introduced Delight milk last May, we started selling it at the market price of that day. However, in the market, the price of Aavin milk is less than that of private brands.

Ramakrishna N
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