Dairy Crisis Worsens with Milk Prices Yet to Settle
KARACHI: The city has been facing a severe shortage of fresh unpasteurized milk for the past two weeks but there has been no intervention on the part of the government to address the issue, it emerged on Monday.
Some people called up newspaper offices to share their concern over the shortage, citing that they were forced to buy costly packaged milk and dairy products these days.
“Milk and yoghurt just disappear from the market within a span of two hours every morning, with no further supplies during the day,” said Ahsan Ikram, a North Nazimabad resident, adding that milk shops get crowded in the evening, too. Similar complaints were received from other areas including Nazimabad, Federal B. Area, Gulberg, Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Korangi and Saddar.
When contacted, Karachi Dairy Farmers Association president Haji Sikandar told media that there had been a 30 per cent decline in milk supplies to the city.
“The reasons are mainly linked to low milk prices, causing losses to dairy farmers and the ban on the hormonal injection (oxytocin),” he said.
The KDFA chief added that the government was forcing them to sell milk at a price (Rs70 per litre at the retail level) set four years ago. The government had been reminded time and again to set another official price in consultation with stakeholders but there was no success, he explained.
The government refusal not to increase the price had caused losses to dairy farmers that shrunk their business, he argued.
He was of the opinion that another reason was linked to the ban on the hormonal injection. “The ban must continue but that drug administered to buffaloes greatly enhanced their milk productivity. Therefore, there needs to be some other initiatives to enhance milk production,” he said.
The shortages in milk supplies, he said, were persisting for the past few months but they got severe with the ban on injection. “There is no mechanism at the colony to rehabilitate dry animals and farmers have to sell them off as soon as their milk production drop. The solution to the crisis is to buy more buffaloes. But it’s not possible for dairy farmers, who have already been suffering losses, to invest more in the business,” he said.
Mr Sikander said the way the government was handling the fresh unpasteurised milk crisis showed the authorities wanted to strengthen the business of packaged milk. “The government has no say over the prices of packaged milk. The companies sell milk at a price even higher than Rs100 per litre,” he added.
The milk prices, he said, should be Rs86 according to the cost of production.
Hafiz Nisar Gaddi of the Milk Retailers Association said it was very unfair on part of the government to arrest and fine retailers on profiteering charges.
“The government has been persistently violating the high court order according to which the authorities were bound to hold consultations with all stakeholders to fix new official price of fresh milk,” he said.
Mr Gaddi claimed the government didn’t hold a single meeting with the stakeholders on the price issue.
Mohammad Rafique of the Milk Wholesalers Association said the crisis was not artificial and if the government continued to show indifference, it would worsen. “Similar situation prevailed in Hyderabad and Sukkur and it’s mainly due to the ban on the hormonal injection.
“I have submitted a letter to the commissioner today with the request to call a meeting on the issue,” he said.
Karachi Commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddqui, however, was of the opinion that Rs70 per litre was a ‘good price’ and the government crackdown against the ‘profiteers’ was appreciated by everyone.
“They have changed the supply pattern. But people have an option to buy packaged milk which is available across the city,” he said in reply to a question.
The sudden increase in milk prices was not acceptable to the people and the government had to intervene, he added. “Now that they have submitted the application, we will set up a committee to discuss the issue,” he said.
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