7 years long wait to get better prices has resulted in sharp fall in milk production. Once number one milk producing district in the state, Sirmour has now slipped to third place.
The Mantra to adopt milk production as one of the main cash oriented business was given by Dr Y. S. Parmar, Himachal Nirmata and first Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh to the farmers of the state. Picking his words as success Mantra, farmers of Sirmour district adopted milk production in a big way and Sirmour became number one milk producer district in the state. But due to utter negligence by the successive governments of the state this profession became unprofitable and Dr Parmarâ€™s Sirmour slipped to third place in the field of milk production in the state.
Now two rupee increase in the procurement price of milk has brought cheer on the faces of milk producers in the district. In this district milk production has become the only source of income in many parts of the district as the main traditional cash crop, ginger got affected due to ginger rotten disease which has played havoc with the economy of the area. The dread disease was continuously destroying this main income generating crop of the farmers for the past over 30 years.
Frustrated due to utter negligence of the government and false claims made to invent the remedy of ginger rotten disease farmers of the district had immediately shifted to the profession of milk production in the large number and in eighties Sirmour became leading milk producing district in the state. With over 60 milk producing Cooperative Societies. Farmers produced around 18 thousand litre of milk for commercial sale to HP Milkfed, private factories and other institutes.
â€˜In the year of 2000 the milk producers of the district raised their demand to increase the procurement price of the milk but their demand fell into the deaf ears of the government. During past seven years HP Milkfed doubled its sale price but did not increase even a single penny in the procurement price paid to the farmers. Farmers waited a long for the increase in prices and made several representations through their Milk Cooperative Societies to the government pleading that milk production cost had almost doubled due to sharp rise in the cattle feed and medicines prices but their voice was not heard by anyone sitting in the rulingâ€™ says Suresh Kumar, progressive farmer and former Secretary of Lakshmi Women Milk Producers Society, Lana Pallar under Sangrah tehsil.
Suresh Kumar said that Lakshmi Coop. Society was one of the leading milk producers society in the district selling over 300 litre milk per day to the Milkfed but the society stopped working about five years back as producers shifted to some other businesses as milk producing had become a loss oriented profession. He said that like his society several milk societies closed down in the district but government did not bother about the plight of the producers. He said that to get lost momentum of the milk production in the district, producers need a helping hand from the government. He said that producers need financial help for the purchase of milch cattles, the milk collection vehicle of the Milkfed should touch every area to collect the milk. Day to day on the spot checking of quality of the milk be introduced as private factories were doing in the Paonta area to pay correct price to the quality milk producers.
Mr Harinder Sharma, a milk producer belonging to Kotla Mollar village of Dadahu area under Nahan Sub Division reacted that farmers were demanding this increase for the past over six years. He added that this delayed increase in the procurement price has given a big set back to the milk producers in the district. Mr. Sharma says that the long awaited increase in procurement price has come after a long wait which has finally given a hope to the farmers to revive earlier business which they discontinued due to poor procurement prices. He however feels that procurement price must be increased atleast three rupees in place of two to give a boost to the milk production at a time when pure milk was being sold in the open market up to rupees 20 a litre.
Mr. Ashwani Thakur, General Manageer HP Milkfed when contacted said that his department was making every effort to increase milk production in the state and to add more charm in this business so that more and more farmers were attracted to this business. He said that with the new policies of the Milkfed including increasing of procurement price would provide a stage to boost the production and also to get lost momentum of the milk production back once again. He added that to provide loan facility on the cheaper interest rates to the farmers the Milkfed had signed a MOU with the State Bank of India. Under this scheme milk producers who were members of the milk producing societies were being given financial help to purchase milch cattles by the bank on two and half percent lesser rate of interest as compare to the prevailing interest rate of the bank. He said that Milkfed had received hundreds of applications from producers under this scheme with a large number from Sirmour district.
He added that at present the Milkfed was collecting over one crore litre of milk per annum from the different parts of the state. Kullu district is recorded at number one with over nine thousand litre per day, Mandi district second with around seven thousand litre per day and from Sirmour district Milkfed was collecting over 5500 litre milk per day. He hoped that with the expension of the Milkfed network going on in the Sirmour district the milk collection would increase. He added that to provide marketing facilities and self employment in rural areas to the milk producers were the main objects.
Mr. R. K. Chauhan, Manager H.P. Milkfed Nahan disclosed that at present 45 milk producers cooperative societies were working in the district through which over five thousand producers were selling milk to the milkfed. He added that it is estimated that over two thousand more producers of Shillai area would be added to this total very soon with the start of new milk chilling plant at Kafota which would be functional very shortly. The plant was being prepared with the construction cost of rupees 65 lacs under Rashtrya Sam Vikas Yojna. He added that under the same scheme a milk processing, product manufacturing and packing plant was being established at Nahan with a cost of rupees 60 lacs. He added that new increase in the procurement price would benefit over 25 thousand milk producers in the state which include over five thousand milk producing families of Sirmour district. With this increase rupees three crores more would be passed to the milk producers in the state which includes rupees fifty lacs to the farmers of Sirmour district.He added that the rate of milk having fat 4 percent and SNF 8.0 percent has been increased from rupees 8.80 paisa to rupees 10.80 per litre. sss