The Maharashtra drought, coupled with moderate rain across India this year, is likely to also impact the dairy sector. With fodder availability down, the cattle are stressed, says the industry, and this would affect the animals’ productivity.

If southern India does not get good rain in the coming months, the overall stress could lead to a leaner milk season next year.

Industry majors estimate production in Maharashtra to be down by five to 10 per cent. For the rest of the country, there could be a five per cent production loss. India, the world’s largest milk producing nation, saw 142 million tonnes in 2014-15; the output growth rate has been an annual 3.7 per cent over the past decade.

The Maharashtra government has declared 14,708 villages as hit by drought. “Fodder prices have already gone up by 25 to 30 per cent. According to major dairies, productivity is expected to be hit by five to 10 per cent in the coming season,” said Shiva Mudgil, assistant vice-president and dairy analyst with Rabobank.

G Deshpande, deputy director, fodder development, in the state government’s commissionerate of animal husbandry, says: “Come February-March, there is likely to be a scarcity of fodder.”

Farmers, it is reported, have started to divert to cash crops (which also produces cattle feed) like soyabean or cotton from green crops like maize. The price of concentrated cattle feed has risen by 18 per cent in recent months.

Also, with a below normal monsoon, other milk producing states are also experiencing lower availability of fodder.

Percapita availability
            Per capita availability of milk

Says R S Sodhi, managing director of the country’s largest dairy cooperative, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), which also makes cattle feed: “With availability of fodder down, sale of cattle feed (balanced nutrition, in pellet form) has gone up by 20 per cent.” Substituting fodder with cattle feed would not affect nutrition for the animal, he said, but if the diet is low on green and dry fodder, the animal is likely to be under stress. He, too, estimated production in Maharashtra could be five to 10 per cent lower in the next season.

As for Tamil Nadu, R G Chandramogan, managing director of Hatsun Agro, a leading private dairy in the region, said: “The situation would be clear in the coming two months as to what kind of rain the Andhra belt and Tamil Nadu get. However, the fodder situation this year has not been good and cattle are indeed stressed. This would definitely impact milk production across the country by at least five per cent.”

Private entities in Maharashtra are worried. While procurement had not been affected much till now, it definitely would be in the next season, said Devendra Shah, chairman of Parag Milk Foods, which procures a million litres a day on an average from around 23,000 farmers.