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The White Revolution: India’s dairy triumph and its multifaceted impact on society – Industry News

The White Revolution: India’s dairy triumph and its multifaceted impact on society – Industry News

– By Manish Bandlish

As we celebrate the 102nd birth anniversary of a visionary leader – Dr. Verghese Kurien – it becomes imperative to revere our heritage, the tremendous achievements that we have accomplished in the Indian Dairy sector. Dr. Kurien’s remarkable “Billion-Litre Idea” laid the foundation for the world’s most extensive agricultural dairy development program, forever changing the trajectory of India’s dairy industry. Today, India stands tall in terms of milk production, ranking #1 with a remarkable 23 per cent contribution to the global milk production.

Dr. Kurien had aptly said, “India’s place in the sun would come from the partnership between wisdom of its rural people and skill of its professionals.” These words resonate as proof of the transformation we have witnessed. The success of the White Revolution can be attributed to the tireless efforts of millions of farmers across the nation. Their enthusiastic participation and dedication to embracing advancements in animal husbandry, feed management, and veterinary care have elevated the Indian dairy sector to global standards. The collective efforts of the milk producers of this country and the dairy industry continue to live this legacy every day. 

Scripting India’s growth every day

India’s milk production stands at over 220 million tonnes, witnessing a 6 times growth since the 1960s. The Indian dairy industry’s tailwinds caught the attention in late 1990s when it surpassed developed economies in terms of milk production. Today, the Indian dairy and animal husbandry sector contributes around 5 per cent to the country’s GDP and the contribution of the dairy sector to agriculture sector is 24 per cent, which is valued around Rs 10 lakh crores, making it highest in the world. 

The novel Operation Flood program, which is regarded as one of the world’s largest rural development programmes, was more than a dairy programme. Dairying was seen as an instrument of development, generating employment and regular incomes for millions of rural people. Today, more than 8 crore households are directly associated with the dairy sector. Notably, women have a 70 per cent representation in the workforce in India’s dairy sector. This is a testament to this sector being a formidable force, which no other sector can represent. The Indian dairy sector has been instrumental in providing the desired economic independence to the farmers of this nation where they are able to access better civic amenities and induct more milch animals.

India is not just the largest producer of milk but also the largest consumer of milk and milk products. Milk being intrinsically connected to our culture, has also driven its consumption.  Considered amongst the fastest growing markets in the world, clocking a growth of about 15 per cent per annum in the last 15 years, the dairy industry in India has surged to an impressive Rs 13 trillion. Furthermore, the Indian dairy market is expected to be at Rs 30 trillion by 2027. Rising income and growing preference for products like cheese, yoghurt, curd, ice creams, etc. coupled with the shift towards products with emphasis on convenience, hygiene, health and wellness will provide the required boost to the sector. 

Beyond its significant economic contributions, the dairy sector emerges as a vital player in addressing nutritional challenges. While milk is considered to be a wholesome food, dairy stands out as the most affordable source of protein, providing a holistic and accessible solution to address widespread nutritional challenges. Moreover, the dairy industry is actively engaged in fortification efforts, particularly in enhancing the nutritional content of widely consumed products such as milk and curd. Further inclusion of probiotics also offers an additional avenue to provide consumers and easy alternative to dietary supplements. Over the years, the industry has seen various initiatives aimed at enhancing nutrition within the dairy sector. 

Efforts have also been undertaken to spearhead programs which help the sector to reach out to the masses. One notable example is the Gift Milk initiative of NDDB Foundation for Nutrition (NFN), which is dedicated to eradicating malnutrition in school children by providing them safe milk and milk products.

Additionally, the sector is at the forefront of inculcating environment-friendly initiatives across the entire value chain. Right from embracing renewable energy at village-level collection centres to including rainwater harvesting pits and water recycling plants at manufacturing levels, the sector is mitigating the judicious use of the resources at hand. The Indian dairy sector continues to explore various options at all levels including logistics and supply, that assist in contributing towards the journey of sustainability. The need of the hour is to link the consumers to the sustainability mission, and this can be achieved by raising awareness and highlighting significance of sustainable consumption and practices. By promoting responsible choices such as token milk, safe waste disposal, recycling, minimizing food waste and supporting sustainability initiatives can bring visible results. As witnessed in other industry segments, dairy organizations should also strive to become plastic waste neutral.

Opportunities and potential to move forward

The Indian dairy sector is poised for continuous growth, and opportunities to expand its potential by addressing certain key aspects. The buzzword of today’s generation – entrepreneur – was brought to our country way ahead of time. The Operation Flood initiative ensured that the powers rested in the hands of the farmers, making them decide their own business policies, adopt modern production and marketing techniques and receive services that they can individually neither afford nor manage.  

Under the umbrella of the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), Dr. Kurien’s erstwhile initiatives and visionary leadership along with the Government of India’s crucial support through tax incentives, subsidies on inputs, and infrastructure provisions such as cold chains and electrification, further aided the transformative journey for the Indian dairy sector, fostering self-sustainability and economic growth. 

Consumption of milk and milk products is not all about urban consumers. Rural India is the largest consumer but mostly self-consumption-based or neighbourhood-purchase-based. With increasing demand for packed and pasteurized milk, the rural sector can be transformed as a big market. Furthermore, the versatility of milk and its wide range of products, from traditional dairy items to innovative dairy-based food and beverage options, along-with the growing openness of Indian consumers to experiment and explore for more, reflects the untapped potential for the industry. Additional investments in the development of cold chain infrastructure in urban and suburban markets will also help in expanding the coverage.

In remote areas, the potential for growth lies in expanding facilities for veterinary treatment, ensuring that the population of cattle aligns seamlessly with the availability of veterinary hospitals. This expansion would not only address the current gap but ensure improved animal healthcare and make a positive impact on milk production. To maximise the potential of the diverse supply there is a need to optimise supply chain operations. The sector’s perishable nature demands meticulous efforts to preserve freshness and safety, and by streamlining these processes, we can ensure the efficient and timely transportation of dairy products from farms to consumers.

In addition, investing in intensive education and training programs on good dairy practices becomes a gateway to success. Empowering farmers with knowledge and skills is not just an opportunity but a catalyst for the production of safe and high-quality dairy products. 

As we move forward, the journey we have achieved so far as an industry is truly remarkable, driven by a collective commitment to continuous improvement and innovation. In this journey, farmers stand as the backbone, and their pivotal role in shaping the triumphs of the Indian dairy sector cannot be overstated. The future too should be met with optimism, where embracing modern technologies will pave the way for a White Revolution-2.0, fostering efficiency, productivity, and sustainability to usher in a new era of progress and prosperity. 

India’s dairy sector has the potential to further solidify its leadership position, ensure long-term profitability, and contribute to the country’s economic development while meeting the changing demands of the global market, or in other words, become dairy to the world.

As Dr. Kurien remarked, “I am in the business of empowerment. Milk is just a tool for that.” Let milk be the same tool of change for generations to come. On this National Milk Day, let us come together as an industry, share best practices, knowledge, experiences and adopt innovative techniques & latest technologies. Let’s initiate dialogues & discussions, incentivize sustainability, promote research & innovation, and pledge to orchestrate a new chapter in the remarkable transformation of the Indian dairy industry. 

(Manish Bandlish is the Managing Director at Mother Dairy.)

(Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited.)

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