Companies dealing with dairy products, especially pasteurised and processed milk, have reported record profits globally over the past four years. Still, Indian dairy farmers continue to reel from low price realisation. It’s not hard to understand why. Companies buy milk at rock-bottom prices and sell at robust pre-slowdown-level rates. This could change if farmers were united to collectively bargain for better deals with dairy promoters or corporates. And there are fine role models for such enterprise. The Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), whose Amul brand is a household name, transfers around 82 per cent of its retail price share to farmers in the supply chain in Gujarat and elsewhere. That’s because Amul is a cooperative—farmers own it.
Amul managing director R.S. Sodhi showcased the cooperative model that ensures handsome returns to milk farmers. Speaking at a panel discussion at the Outlook Agriculture Conclave and Swaraj Awards, organised by the Outlook Hindi magazine in New Delhi last weekend, he pushed for cooperatives as means to achieve economic empowerment for farmers. Experts and farmers at the conclave echoed similar views. This comes at a time when farm distress has become central to the political discourse, especially during the five-state assembly elections this autumn.