Nagpur: Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) leader Raju Shetti called off the state-wide milk producers’ agitation in Nagpur after the state government late on Thursday evening agreed to hike the milk procurement rate, which was earlier Rs 17, up to Rs 25. The new rate, which is likely to increase the overall price of milk for consumers, will be applicable from July 21.
The government announced the new purchase price in the legislature in the wake of a high-level meeting attended by Union minister Nitin Gadkari, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar, among others. The government has, however, not accepted the demand of giving a subsidy of Rs 5 per litre to farmers directly.
Farmers receive Rs 17-21 per litre for cow milk, but many dairies have been giving them only Rs 13-14 per litre. As milk production has increased and international prices of the milk powder were slashed, farmers have been suffering because they are not recovering production costs. Mr Shetti demanded a subsidy of Rs 5 per litre to producers and Rs 50 for milk powder. The government announced Rs 50 per kg of milk powder as export subsidy last week.
Dairy development minister Mahadeo Jankar said in the Assembly that the government would not give any subsidy for the sale of milk in pouches. But the government would pay Rs 5 per litre for unsold milk as conversion subsidy, provided that dairies give a purchase rate of Rs 25 per litre to producers.
In a meeting with the state government, Mr Shetti had demanded a rate of Rs 27 per litre compulsorily for cow milk. He also demanded that subsidy be transferred directly into farmers’ accounts. But, Cabinet minister Girish Mahajan reiterated the government’s views on direct subsidy. He said that there is a practical problem in accepting this demand as many farmers sell milk to private dairies. So, both leaders decided to meet Mr Fadnavis over the issue.
Officials said that the government denied the direct subsidy to farmers as 60 per cent of milk is purchased by private dairies and Mr Fadnavis fears a scam in getting the government subsidy.
Meanwhile, SSS activists also blocked roads on the Mumbai-Bangalore highway at three spots, halting traffic for over two hours on Thursday morning. Thousands of SSS members also did a ‘rasta roko’ at Kini near Kolhapur on the Pune-Bangalore Highway. A few protesters also blocked the Pune-Mum-bai Expressway, demanding Rs 5 per litre direct subsidy for cow milk to farmers.