Urbanisation plays into the hands of milk producers. A shop keeper making and selling lassi, a typical yogurt drink which is very common in India and Pakistan.
Photo: FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri

A new boost to the “White Revolution”?

Demand suggests that India has the potential to initiate a second “White Revolution”. This would require a fundamental renewal of the dairy sector. Prospects and risks were explored in a discussion round at the EuroTier trade fair.

In the 1960s and 1970s, India celebrated a successful “White Revolution”. This subcontinent has largely raised milk production from the subsistence economy via co-operatives, and milk consumption has since risen from 100 to a present daily 315 grams per capita. India even exports milk and dairy products.

Urbanisation plays into the hands of milk producers

Fifty years on, it is time for the next step. In 2000, one billion people were living in India, 27 per cent of them in the country’s cities; by 2015, 32 per cent of the now 1.2 billion people were urban dwellers, and by 2030, around 1.5 billion people will be living in India, 40 per cent of them in an urban environment. There, the middle classes can afford more food and replace plant protein with animal protein in their diets. Before meat and egg consumption rises, more people are going to consume milk and dairy foods, forecasted Sunjay Vuppuluri of India’s Yes Bank at EuroTier in Hanover, Germany. EuroTier is the world’s largest livestock trade fair, and it was also attended by 17 exhibitors from India. Together with the Hamburg-based German Asia-Pacific Business Association (OAV), the German Agricultural   Society (DLG) had invited experts to a discussion round on the prospects and risks of livestock husbandry in India, the focus being on the milk market.

Production must become more efficient

In India, milk production and consumption is growing by an annual four per cent. Indian dairy cows currently produce around 156 million tons of milk a day. Bernd Koch of DLG-International said that 200 million tons would be needed to cover the demand in 2030. Achieving this required an increase in milk production productivity and a modernisation of processing, which offered opportunities for German companies to sell machinery and technology.

Trilochan Mohapatra is State Secretary at the Indian Ministry of Agriculture and Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). In a nutshell, his analysis is that the genetics of dairy cows are too old, fodder production is insufficient to cope with periods of drought, and fodder quality is too low. Half of the Indian dairy cattle have not been registered in herd books, so that hardly any progress is being made in breeding, and at 37 million semen portions a year, artificial insemination is not widespread enough to improve the national herd. Since cattle must not be slaughtered in India, sperm sexing, i.e. separating sperm passing on the female or male sex, would be required. For the male offspring of descendants which are not put to use starve or are slaughtered illegally, a practice that is criticised by animal welfare organisations.

Structural change?

The fragmentation of milk production is another problem. There are just under 500 million cattle and buffalos in India. Milk performance is at three to five litres a day, which is sufficient for many families. Eighty per cent of the animals are kept alone or in pairs on farms. Out of the 140 million dairy farmers, 45 million are producing below the national average. The co-operatives of the White Revolution have resulted in hardly any structural change. Instead, lone fighters have only been strengthened by the networks. Mohapatra maintains that the country has 1.6 million dairy co-operatives. According to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, enhancing productivity and rising income as well as integration in co-operatives are to enable farmers to benefit from the planned changes in the sector. It remains to be seen whether this can also apply to the microenterprises.


Roland Krieg,
journalist, Berlin/Germany