Feast of Memories – 2

Dr E Madhavan a veteran of the National Dairy Development Board started his career with Kheda District Milk Producers Union Limited , Anand. He later joined the newly formed Farmers Organisation and Animal Husbandry Group at the National Dairy Development Board in early seventies.
Dr. Madhavan shares his reminiscences in a series of articles. He has named these memoirs as “Feast of Memories”. He recalls the incidents leading to the initiation of Operation Flood I in Tamilnadu in 1973 and his first visit to Erode.

Initiation of Anand Pattern Milk Producers Cooperatives in Tamilnadu

Anand Pattern got initiated in Tamil Nadu in October 1973 with a meeting with Mr LM Menezes, Managing Director, Tamil Nadu Dairy Development Corporation (TNDDC).

The meeting took place at the Corporation’s office in Madras. All the senior officers of TNDDC were present at the meeting. Mr Menezes introduced me to his officers and outlined the purpose of the meeting.

TNDDC officials explained the working of the milk cooperatives organised by them under the Operation Flood (OF).

Those cooperatives deviated from Anand Pattern cooperatives on two major aspects: milk was collected from the farmers’ houses by vendors engaged by the cooperatives and no testing of individual samples was carried out (keeping in line with the tradition followed by the conventional milk supply societies in the state). A flat price was paid to the farmers and all of them received the same price, irrespective of quality.

Of the seven districts covered under OF in Tamil Nadu, barring two (North Arcot and Nilgiris), the rest were predominantly buffalo milk (about 90% of total milk collected). The milk collected by the cooperatives had an average 4.5% Fat and 8.3% SNF.

TNDDC officers felt that individual fat testing was not practical. Besides, according to them, the farmers objected to drawing 50 ml milk for testing

. The officers justified the low Fat and SNF due to poor quality buffaloes and poor feeding. Further, they said that the farmers (especially ladies) in Tamil Nadu, unlike the Gujarati ladies, wouldn’t like to deliver milk at the cooperatives. They were highly sceptical about adoption of Anand Pattern by the farmers of Tamil Nadu. However, they said that they were not averse to trying it out, though they were apprehensive of its success.

I coolly replied saying that I had not come to challenge anyone and that my intention was to share my Anand experience with them and that the Anand Pattern trial will be a joint exercise.

There was a long discussion on the area where the Anand Pattern was to be tried first. Mr Menezes suggested Erode as the area was considered to be a notorious one with several established dairies and milk traders operating there.

TNDDC had tried collecting milk in Erode but didn’t succeed due to stiff competition from the private sector. He added that if the “trial” succeeded in Erode, the Pattern will be extended to all other districts. I welcomed the suggestion and set sail to Erode!

My visit to Erode in 1973

Following day, I started for Erode by a morning train (West Coast Express), along with Mr V Thirthagiri, Deputy Milk Commissioner (Cooperation-Joint Registrar rank in the Cooperative Department).

When the train arrived at Erode station in the afternoon, I noticed a crowd of about 25 people waiting at the platform to receive us. The crowd comprised the Deputy Registrar (Dairying) and his staff. They didn’t allow us to carry the small bags we were carrying. We alighted from the train and proceeded to the hotel, very close to the station, where our accommodation was arranged.

I got up early in the morning and got ready to visit some villages, but left only by 10 am. The destination was the Bhavani Milk Supply Society, where we reached in about half an hour.

This society collected milk from farmers through vendors and sold it in Bhavani town. Mr Thirthagiri checked all the registers and spoke to the President of the society on the working of the society and the problems it faced. The President complained that the milk collection had come down drastically because of drought and stiff competition. The society was collecting less than 100 litres of milk per day.

When Mr Thirthagiri asked about my opinion on the society, I replied that it was surprising the society was getting even that quantity of milk! The talk continued for about an hour. After lunch, we returned to our hotel at Erode. Next day, we visited the Erode Milk Supply Union, but the drill was same. Hence, I decided to move alone and Mr Thirthagiri returned to Madras.

I started moving alone in the villages and meeting the farmers. I looked at their agricultural practices and the livestock. I noticed that the farmers had adopted improved agricultural practices (hybrid seeds, fertilizer, pest control, ploughing, irrigation etc).

They were keeping bullocks (Kangayam breed) for ploughing, transportation of goods and people, paddy thrashing, and buffaloes for milk. Both bullocks and buffaloes were in excellent condition.

The buffaloes were local, upgraded with Murrah blood. Milking buffaloes were given rice bran, cotton seed (soaked overnight and finely ground in the “attukallu”) Fodder consisted of jowar, paddy straw, sugarcane top, groundnut clover, etc.

I was quite impressed with the management of the buffaloes, much the same way as in Gujarat if not a shade better.

“I had adopted a novel way of identifying progressive farmers in the villages: looked for the tallest hay stack and entered that house.”

My judgement turned out to be correct as invariably I met the real farmers whom I was looking for. I covered over hundred farmers in one week and I discussed with them the problems and difficulties faced in selling milk. They said: buffaloes had to be milked very early in the morning as well as in the afternoon to suit to the buyers’ convenience, underweighments, irregular payments, not accepting all the milk offered, lack of AI and animal health care facility, high cost of feed, low milk prices, etc.

I noticed that the vendors who were collecting milk for cooperatives, creameries, private dairies (small and large) and milk contractors were using defective measuring sets: not stamped by the competent authority, the bottom of the measures were tampered to hold at least 100 ml more milk. They carried only one litre measure; anything less than a litre was “approximation”, most of the times to the advantage of the vendor

Creameries and dairies in Erode

Creameries: Practically, all major villages had at least one creamery (hand operated cream separator) of varying capacities, depending on the volume of milk handled. Evening and morning milk were combined and supplied to the creamery. Cream was separated and payment was based on the quantity of cream recovered. A small aluminium “mug” was used for measuring the cream. Payment was only for the cream: skim milk was a bonus. It was boiled, chilled and sent to towns to be sold as milk. Some quantity was converted into curd which had a good market in the towns. Erode “milk” and “curd” had great demand in the towns. The cream was converted into butter and sold in the towns. Consumers preferred to buy butter and make ghee at home. Erode ghee was very popular. All the creameries put together were handling about 20-30,000 litres of milk. Milk payments were very irregular and there were instances of the creamery fellow running away (disappearing) with pending payments of a few months. 

Nilgiri Dairy and Nambisan Dairy: These were two major dairies in Erode. They had pasteurisation and butter making facilities. Nilgiri Dairy enjoyed good clientele in Bangalore and Madras and Nambisan Dairy in Kerala and Madras. Both the dairies together were handling about 30-40,000 litres of milk per day. The small dairies and the milk contractors handled about 10-20,000 litres of milk.

Procurement of milk by cooperatives and pricing of milk

Two Milk Supply Cooperatives were functioning in Erode: Erode Milk Supply Union at Erode handling about 2000 litres and Bhavani Milk Supply Society handling about 150 litres per day.

Both the cooperatives collected milk through vendors and sold milk in Erode and Bhavani towns.

Erode Milk Supply Union had a small milk chilling plant. During flush season, their collection went very high and during lean, it went down drastically to the extent that they hardly had any milk to stay in the market. Milk cooperatives were “dumping ground” during flush season and in lean season, milk supply to the cooperatives used to come down to rock bottom.

To overcome this problem, TNDDC had introduced a “quota system” at the cooperatives. But, it never worked! The quality of milk was very bad: Fat 3% and SNF 7%, on account of massive adulteration.

The Union supplied milk at the consumers’ houses, through vendors. Vendors who sold milk in the towns had measuring sets with convex bottoms which will under measure milk to the extent of about 100 ml per litre. Vendors created “froth” while measuring milk which also reduced the quantity of milk. All vendors carried two “kinds” of measuring sets: one for buying with concave bottoms and the other for selling with convex bottoms.

TNDDC Milk Price Chart: TNDDC did not follow separate price chart for buffalo and cow milk. A common price chart was followed, scaling down the fat and snf levels based on the quality of milk available in the market.  Though most of the milk collected by TNDDC was from buffaloes, the price chart followed was that for cows’ milk. In fact, the price chart encouraged adulteration! The net result was collection of adulterated buffalo milk with low Fat and SNF contents. Farmers knew at what level of fat/snf they stand to gain and adulterated milk to that level!

Availability of milk in Erode milkshed: Based on the brief survey carried out, the estimated marketable milk surplus in the Erode milk shed was about one lakh litres.

Contributed by Dr. E. Madhavan, Former Regional Director NDDB , Mumbai
Continued Feast of Memories -3

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