India can start exporting hard cheese to Russia if it wishes, as Moscow has agreed to its initial demand that the condition that only those dairies would be allowed to export that have captive cattle ranches be reviewed six months after export to the country begins.

New Delhi, however, is now weighing the option of negotiating harder to get a waiver on the condition before exports start, as only two Indian companies will qualify for exports under the given stipulation, a government official told BusinessLine.

“We are apprehensive that if we sign the export protocol without resolving the issue of the mandatory requirement of dairies owing cattle, we may not be able to sort it ever,” the official said.

Earlier this year Russia had agreed to start importing dairy items, specifically hard cheese, from India, but it lay down the condition that only dairy plants with over 1,000 cattle could export.

Only two Indian producers of hard cheese – Parag Milk Foods and Shreiber Dynamix Diaries – qualify for exports under this condition while all others, including cooperatives like Amul, do not, as Indian dairies mostly do not own their own farms.

Russia insists that dairy exporters should have a captive cattle farm as it could then get a certificate from an authorised veterinarian servicing the dairy specifying that the cattle had been properly vaccinated and was free of foot-and-mouth disease, tuberculosis, brucellosis and leukemia.

“Our embassy in Moscow and the Export Inspection Council of India are in talks with the Russian quality control agency trying to persuade them that the milk sourcing model that will be followed by the exporting firms would ensure that there are no contaminants or disease causing germs in the sourced milk,” the official said.


India suggested that clusters of villages from where dairy plants source their milk could be identified and veterinarians assigned to each cluster who could give a certification related to all required vaccinations and FMD outbreak.

“Over the last few months of discussions with the Russian officials on the issue, we have realised that it could take a lot of time to resolve such matters. If we agree to an export protocol with just a provision of review, the pressure on the Russians to give us a permanent solution would lessen,” the official said.

But also at stake is the future of the companies that qualify to export under the existing rules as they stare at an uncertain future. “It is a call we will have to take,” the official added.