World Milk Day: How the White Revolution brought 'Anand' to Indian farmers

In 2018, India's milk output contributed to 19 per cent of the total world production surpassing that of the US, China, Pakistan, Brazil and all of Europe.

Published: 01st June 2019 06:57 PM  |   Last Updated: 06th June 2019 04:50 PM   |  A+A-

World Milk Day, White Revolution,

Kurein Verghese interacting with Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1964. (Photo | Website/drkurien.com)

Online Desk

The BJP's Giriraj Singh took charge as the Minister for Animal Husbandry, Dairy, and Fisheries on June 1, which coincidentally is also celebrated as World Milk Day. 

In 2018, India's milk output contributed to 19 per cent of the total world production surpassing that of the US, China, Pakistan, Brazil and all of Europe. But do you know how India became the world's largest
producer of milk?

India wasn't always self-sufficient when it came to milk production, having had to import milk powder and other dairy products. This 'ship to mouth' approach changed in the 1970s with Operation Flood, the world's largest dairy development programme, which was started to end the exploitation of livestock farmers by middlemen.

In the 1940s, a group of 411 farmers in Anand, Gujarat, had started a cooperative dairy in order to earn a greater percentage of profits under the leadership of Tribhuvandas Patel. Very soon, with professional help, the initiative grew into a full-fledged business model. The highlight of the model was that it was completely farmer operated. From management to procurement, from marketing to the sale of milk, farmers were involved in practically every stage of the process. Verghese Kurien's arrival as general manager in 1950 marked a key point in the cooperative dairy's evolution.

But work on implementing the model on a national scale had to wait another 15 years. In 1965, the Indian government registered the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) under the Ministry of Agriculture with Kurien as its chairman. His work was to replicate the Anand pattern across India. The objective was to create a grid of milk producers with consumers scattered over 700 towns and cities. This came into being in 1970 which saw the launch of Operation Flood, a 'billion-litre' idea.

But a threat loomed over the whole experiment. Before the first phase of Operation Flood could begin, a surplus of skimmed milk powder and butter oil was ready to be exported from Europe free of cost as aid. This would have rocked the Indian market and crippled farmers.

So this milk powder and butter oil was instead sold to generate a revenue of Rs 1165.5 million which financed the first phase of Operation Flood, with the funds being disbursed as 30 per cent grant and 70 per cent loan. Along with this, big milk sheds in 18 cities were connected to four Mother Dairies in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai to feed the large consumer base here.

In phase two, the number of milk sheds increased from 18 to 136 and the market also increased from just four big cities to over 290 urban markets. To expand the project vigorously, a loan of USD 150 million
was taken from the World Bank which helped connect 34,500 village milk cooperative societies producing 261 metric tonnes per day.

In phase three, implemented during 1985-1996, all the cooperative societies were made self-sufficient with financial assistance from the World Bank and commodity assistance from European countries. The number of milk sheds grew to 173. The results began to show. In 1990, India was flooded with milk with 50 million tonnes of milk being produced per year. The NDDB soon began to export milk and milk products to Nepal and Europe.

As of 2017-18, the total milk production has more than tripled to 176.3 million tonnes every year. India's dairy exports stood at 48039.4 million tonnes of yielding revenues worth Rs. 1196.19 crores.

The cooperative societies not only made the farmers self-sufficient but also broke the shackles of gender, caste, religion, and community. Women, dalits, Muslims, tribals -- everyone was included in the process. It was truly epoch-making.

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