Thousands of dairy farmers from all districts of Punjab today gathered at the Verka Milk Plant here and protested against the Bhagwant Mann government, demanding an increase in milk prices, on Saturday. The protesting farmers raised slogans against the government and said they would continue their protest until demands are met.
Daljit Singh Sadarpura, President, Progressive Dairy Farmers Association (PDFA) last week had warned the Mann government of launching a campaign against them if their demands were not met.
Sadarpura while addressing the farmers said, “After agriculture, dairy farming is the largest source of livelihood in Punjab. The state today ranks number 1 in commercial dairy farming in the country. The number of dairy farmers in Punjab is more than the entire country. Today every dairy farmer is living under a financial crisis, whether a large or small milk producer. Last two years we have not raised any issue on increasing the prices of milk because of the pandemic. As we know everyone is passing through a crisis, including dairy farmers”.
He said milk rates have not been increased for more than two years now. But the expenditure on milk production is mainly on wheat and fodder, adding 75 per cent expenditure on the feed. Sadarpura said the rates of cow feed have doubled in the last two years.
“The major component of feed is soybean which was Rs 3,200 per quintal and a year back went to Rs 10,000 and now at Rs 6,500 and we had to bear that loss also. In addition, fans have to be switched on for the cows and buffalos, and due to the erratic power supply, the cost of running a genset has also gone up with increasing diesel prices. Cost of running other machinery including tractors have gone up because of the hike in diesel prices,” he explained. The PDFA president said dairy farmers were compelled to stop giving their loan installments to banks, which were taken due to the mounting losses and are on the verge of closure, which will only lead to unemployment. He added that there was no check on hoarding, which hikes the prices of dairy feed, thus causing losses.
“We held several meetings with the new government, because we are going through a crisis and appealed to the government to compensate dairy farmers on the pattern of other states. But the government does not pay heed to our demands,” he said.
He said the dairy farmers struggle despite holding regular meetings with the government on issues, that have not been resolved, especially regarding increase of milk prices and financial assistance of Rs 7 per litre. He also said that in Punjab, the enthusiasm of the farmers towards dairy business has given impetus to crop diversification including maize and other green fodder.
Hundreds of commuters had to suffer due to the protest in Phase VI. The routes of the buses were diverted towards Landran.