World Milk Day 2021: The story of how India went from being milk deficient to largest dairy producer


Milk production expected to increase to around 330 million tonnes in next 10 years.

India is the world’s largest milk producer. However, this was not the case a few decades ago. The country used to be milk deficient, and imported milk from other countries to serve its growing population. The journey from being a milk deficit country to becoming the world’s largest milk producing nation has been exemplary. India accounts for over one-fifth of the global milk production. This is followed by the US, China, Pakistan and Brazil. However, the success did not come overnight. It took years to develop a sector that led to achievements in food security, generating employment opportunities for women, boosting a regular source of income for households in rural areas as well as reducing poverty.

India’s journey: From milk deficit to milk surplus

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During the 1950s and 1960s, the country was heavily dependent on milk imports. It wasn’t until 1965, when the Indian government decided to establish a National Dairy Development Board to develop India’s dairy sector. Soon in 1970, the country aimed to enhance milk production, which led to the launch of Operation Flood. Come 1998, India surpassed the US and became the largest milk producer in the world. India’s per capita availability of milk more than doubled during 1991-2018, with the production growing at a 4% CAGR.

India’s Milk Production in Stats

  • Per capita availability in 1991 in India: 178 gm/day
  • Per capita availability in 2018 in India: 394 gm/day
  • Per capita availability in 2018 in the world: 302 gm/day
  • Milk production in 1991 in India: 55.6 million tonnes
  • Milk production in 2018 in India: 187.7 million tonnes
  • Milk production growth during 1991-2018 in India: 4% CAGR

Atul Chaturvedi, Secretary at the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying in the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairy, has termed Operation Flood as the world’s most ambitious dairy development programme that acted as a stepping stone in the country’s growth towards milk production.

Contribution of Amul

In the last two decades, India’s milk production doubled. Arguably, this would be difficult to achieve had it not been for Amul — a federation made by 3.6 million milk producers in Gujarat. In order to improve the livelihood of farmers, Amul followed an idea similar to Operation Flood. By helping small dairy farmers (those with two or fewer milk animals) earn livelihoods, the production of milk per house was doubled, Amul became famous for leading what is now known as White Revolution.

It was launched to help farmers direct their own development and give them control of the resources they create. The White Revolution resulted in milk production by the masses, rather than mass production at centralised dairy farms. One technological breakthrough succeeded in revolutionising the country’s organised dairy industry, and that was the making of skim milk powder out of buffalo milk.

Technology indeed has played a crucial role in the success of Amul Dairy. The company now uses Automatic Milk Collection systems that makes the collection of milk from farmers seamless and quicker. Everyday, the company can easily collect 3.3 million litres of milk from 2.12 million farmers from various villages across India. All these farmers are simultaneously paid while delivering the milk, ensuring their proper earning.

Now, Amul has 31 plants in India, with 13 of those being in Gujarat. The cooperative has four plants in Delhi NCR; two in UP; four in Maharashtra; three in Rajasthan; and one each in Chhattisgarh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Jammu and Kashmir.

Indian milk industry: Looking ahead

According to the figures in a NITI Aayog report, India’s milk production is again set to nearly double over the next decade, with the increase in supply far outpacing the demand. This could pave the way for a massive ramp up of exports. The government is trying to set up village-level dairy infrastructure under the National Action Plan on Dairy Development to increase the share of organised milk handling.

  • Milk production expected to increase to around 330 million tonnes in next 10 years
  • Increase in milk supply pegged to exceed demand by 38 million tonnes in 10 years
  • Plan to increase organised milk handling to 41 per cent next year; to 50 per cent in 3 years
  • Milk procurement by cooperatives expected to rise to 20 per cent in 2023 from 10 per cent in 2020
  • Private sector’s role in milk procurement projected to rise to 30 per cent by 2023

Meanwhile, Atul Chaturvedi has highlighted that the government needs to identify ways that will enhance the return on investment for Indian farmers. For this, the idea is to focus on new technological means as well as infrastructure. The role of technology has been well established in the last one year on the back of Covid-19-induced lockdown, with tech-driven supply chain platforms capable of linking thousands of milk producers to consumers. Going forward, apart from strengthening milk procurement infrastructure in districts that are still milk deficit, efforts need to be in penetration of appropriate technology as well.

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