The slump in the price of rubber and cardamom appears to have compelled farmers in Kottayam and Idukki districts to recoup some of their losses through dairying.
As a result, milk production is up 12 to 15 per cent this season and the usual annual summer shortage has shrunk considerably, say sources in the Kerala Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (Milma).
The collection of milk by dairy societies in Kottayam district has gone up around 15 per cent this season compared to last year, said a Milma official.
Rise in milk collection in Idukki and Kottayam together is an average 12 per cent, said the official pointing out that the fall in the price of cash crops could be the key reason behind the development.
Farmers are taking better care of their animals and also increasing the number of heads, the official added.
Though the dry months of March, April and May see a dip in production, the story has been different this season, thanks largely to the better milk collection in Kottayam and Idukki districts, which are part of the Central zone of the dairy cooperative comprising also Ernakulam and Thrissur districts.
Chairman of Ernakulam Regional Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union P.A. Balan said the farmers have also been bolstered by the payment of substantial incentives this year.
Between November and April, a total of Rs.11 crore has been paid to the farmers in incentives in addition to the normal milk prices.
Though the deadline for payment of the incentives is April, the window of time may be extended to May considering the response from the farmers.
A senior Milma official also said that dairying had been made attractive with farmers realising that there was a steady market for the produce when compared to other produce like natural rubber and cardamom.
“We are ploughing back the profits,” he said underlining the positive response from the dairy farmers.
The large network had resulted in effective market intervention by the milk cooperative whereas in the case of commodities like rubber and cardamom, government support system had failed to reach the farmers in time, he added.
Though there are around 3 lakh dairy farmers registered in the Ernakulam region, around 50,000 farmers bring milk to the societies twice daily.
Milk production in the region has averaged 2.68 lakh litres per day and it is now down to about 2.55 lakh litres now. The gap is marginal, the Milma official added.
Procurement in Kottayam district stands around 42,000 litres per day.