Milk row: Move goes against spirit of federalism and cooperatives, says Kerala's Milma chairman

We do not see entry of Nandini as a threat to Milma. If other brands gain a strong foothold in Kerala market we will educate customers: Milma chairman K S Mani
Image of a Milma booth used for representational purpose only. (File Photo | EPS/Manu R Mavelil)
Image of a Milma booth used for representational purpose only. (File Photo | EPS/Manu R Mavelil)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The milk war is heating up, with the various dairy federations taking an aggressive stand in encroaching upon each other’s territories. After the issue of Amul’s entry into Karnataka, a similar situation is unfolding in Kerala, with Karnataka Milk Marketing Federation’s (KMMF) foray with its Nandini brand. A major customer of KMMF, the Kerala Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation, known as Milma, is being denied milk as the competition aggravates. Milma chairman K S Mani talks to TNIE about long-drawn fights among federations amidst talks of mergers and disappearing boundaries. Excerpts:

K S Mani, Milma chairman
K S Mani, Milma chairman

Do you view the entry of Nandini as a threat to Milma?
We do not see it as a threat. But we pointed out the unethical aspects. I wanted to take forward the idea that sister organisations should not act against the spirit of federalism and cooperatives. It will weaken the farmers’ bodies in states. 

How do you plan to take it up?
We are not here for a fight. I sent a letter to my counterpart in Karnataka in December. 

I spoke to the chairman of NDDB, Meenesh Shah, and also discussed it in the board meeting of the National Cooperative Dairy Federation of India in Anand. We will also bring it to the attention of the central and state governments. 

The unhealthy competition helps private companies. We procure milk from farmers who support various political parties. Our politics is the politics of dairy farmers. If other brands, be it Nandini or Amul, gain a strong foothold in the Kerala market we will educate customers. 

If you buy other brands, the farmers suffer. I’m sure the public will stand by us if there is the crisis in our dairy sector. Last fiscal, we gave Rs 70 crore to farmers as fodder subsidy and milk price. We could use the money for starting similar activities. 

What has been the KMMF’s response?
There has been no response. But they made Amul’s entry into Karnataka a huge issue. In my opinion, this is a double standard. 

What has been the response of milk federations of other states?
I have taken up the issue because other federations will be similarly affected. We made achievements because of the system developed by Verghese Kurien. If there are fissures in the system it won’t be beneficial for cooperatives.

Do you see a possibility of Nandini starting a processing unit here?
It is unlikely. Because the input cost is higher here. We give a lot of benefits to our farmers. KMMF takes advantage of government benefits to farmers to procure cheap milk and sells it here. 

How serious is the threat of a multi-state cooperative as envisioned by Amit Shah?
The merger of two big brands — Nandini and Amul — will create a major power. But there is opposition to the move in Karnataka. It will not be politically wise if farmers and the general public are against such a merger. 

Has Milma’s procurement from Karnataka been affected by KMMF’s stand?
There has been a substantial decrease in milk production in Karnataka. 
But there are reasons to assume that the denial is deliberate. We used to buy huge quantities of milk from Karnataka. 

Why should they eliminate a major customer who buys lakhs of litres of milk every day in order to sell a few thousand litres of packet milk? It is poor business strategy. 

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express