The milk crisis in India: The story behind the numbers

This past two years has witnessed farmers across India demonstrating for their livelihoods: a hike in milk procurement prices has featured as a key demand. Their demand reflects a grave crisis underway in the Indian milk market, which is threatening to undermine the multifunctional role of livestock and the way of life of entire communities. Small and marginal farmers, the backbone of the Indian milk market, have been hardest hit by a price war waged by dairy processors (companies), beginning January 2015. Faced with mounting stocks of unexportable milk powder, brought on by a slump in global milk powder prices, some of the big domestic dairy players began to flood the domestic market with cheaply priced milk for consumers. At the same time they were lowering the prices at which they were procuring milk from farmers. This was severely affecting small farmers and has also impacted the peoples’ milk market, commonly referred to as the “informal” or “unorganised” milk market.

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