A white revolution

Print edition : December 21, 2007

Chittoor drafts Andhra Pradeshs success story in milk production and animal husbandry.

in Tirupati

Members of womens self-help groups engaged in milk procurement and quality testing at an ISO-certified Bulk Milk Cooling Unit in Penumur.-PICTURES: K.V. POORNACHANDRA KUMAR

Members of womens

CHITTOOR, the second largest milk-producing district in India after Anand in Gujarat, is the fountainhead of the White Revolution in Andhra Pradesh. The district, spread over 15,152 sq km, is known for its impressive livestock population and milk yield. The rural population, which constitutes 78 per cent of the districts total population, is largely dependent on the dairy sector since agriculture has increasingly proved unremunerative. Sadly though, the labour population is growing at a rate higher than the actual population growth.

The gross cropped area declined from 3,65,352 hectares in 2000 to 300,643 hectares in 2004 owing to acute drought conditions for four consecutive years. With the area under paddy crop falling from 37,543 ha to 18,496 ha, groundnut from 1,88,622 ha to 1,37,205 ha and sugarcane from 44,931 ha to 28,646 ha, small and marginal farmers turned to dairying for a stable livelihood. Selling milk to the 44 private dairies ensured a decent income every fortnight.

Fodder production, which does not require large amounts of water, rose as farmers began to cultivate jowar/maize in the rainy season. With increased fodder availability, milk production jumped from 7.6 lakh litres a day in 1999-2000 to 13.4 lakh litres a day in 2004-05. Between 2000 and 2005, the number of milch animals rose by 88,152. Thanks to the initiatives of the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) and the District Poverty Initiatives Programme (DPIP), a number of Jersey crossbred cows and graded Murrah buffaloes were brought to Chittoor. This helped in achieving the production milestone. More than 70 per cent of the cattle in the district are crossbred. Owing to the high moisture retention in the soil in the western parts of the district and the above average rainfall in the eastern parts, there is plenty of grass in the 37,000 ha of grazing lands. The rise in milk production can be attributed to the cool climate and the existence of extensive grazing lands. Crossbreeding and fodder production initiatives taken up since 1975 by the Animal Husbandry Department, too, deserve mention.

According to official estimates, 1,73,224 crossbred calves, 277 nondescript calves and 12,099 buffalo calves are raised every year in the district, of which 50 per cent are female calves. In fact, Chittoor has become a market for young cows for the neighbouring districts of Vellore and Tiruvallur in Tamil Nadu and Kolar and Tumkur in Karnataka.

As Asias largest dairy in the cooperative sector, the Chittoor Cooperative Milk Producers Union, locally known as the Chittoor Dairy, remained a jewel in the districts crown for a long time. Established in 1969 with an output of 6,000 litres a day, it reached a phenomenal capacity of 2.5 lakh litres a day in 1989-1990. The huge surplus milk was converted into milk powder, which, however, could not be sold owing to the slump in prices. This sealed the fate of the dairy, which was closed down on August 31, 2002. Private dairies came up between 2000 and 2005 to fill the vacuum, but their operations took an ugly turn when they formed a syndicate to exploit milk roducers by paying them between Rs.5 and Rs.7 a litre. The farmers approached the district authorities to seek remunerative prices for their milk produce.

As per the directive of the district administration, Tirupati-based Balaji Dairy, an offshoot of the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), agreed to procure milk from the farmers. The DRDA jumped into the fray by establishing two Bulk Milk Cooling Units (BMCUs) on a pilot basis in Gangavaram and Venkatagiri Kota with a capacity of 3,000 litres a day. Womens self-help groups (SHGs), which have proved to be a success story in the State, were given the job of maintaining the units by collecting milk from nearby villages. The womens groups (Mandal Mahila Samakhyas) get 25 paise a litre of milk cooled to 4{+0} Celsius from the procurer, Balaji Dairy.

The novel initiative put dairying in a win-win situation: livestock-raisers got a remunerative price of up to Rs.12 a litre for milk; the SHGs earned an additional income of Rs.9,500 a month, and Balaji Dairy increased its supply manifold, so much so that it even began to supply milk in rail wagons to Mother Dairy in New Delhi. There are 20 BMCUs in the district, not only in the dairy-rich Ramakuppam, Byreddypalle, Karvetinagaram, Gangadhara Nellore, Penumur, Sri Rangaraja Puram, Pakala, Nagalapuram and Yerpedu but in the poverty-stricken Thamballapalle, Kurabalakota, Kalikiri, Tarigonda, Chintaparthi and Punganur areas. The district administrations intervention served as a rude jolt to private dairies, which have now started to offer prices on a par with Balaji Dairy.

The DRDA and Balaji Dairy have formed milk producers institutions (MPIs) in every cluster of 23-27 villages, where milk is collected in stainless steel cans in small carriage vehicles. Samples are collected and tested at the BMCU and payment is made through cheques, based on the fat and solid not fat (SNF) levels.

The dairy sector has not only put Chittoor at the forefront of a white revolution in South India but also helped it in achieving womens empowerment.

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