Dairy farmers in Kashmir are dumping thousands of litres of milk down the drain due to lowered demand, which they blame on the COVID-19 lockdown.
In Pulwama, the highest milk producing district in the region, distressed farmers brought truckloads of milk cans to Industrial Estate Lassipora and threw it in a drain.
They didn’t find buyers after dairy plants at the Industrial Estate refused to buy milk citing subdued demand due to lockdown.
“For over last one month we are selling only 40 per cent of the milk. There are no buyers because of lockdown,” said Rafiq Ahmad, a dairy farmer.
Mr Ahmad has 40 cows and his inability to sell milk has hit his livelihood. The cows are at the verge of starvation, he said.
“I don’t have money to buy fodder for my 40 cows. I earn by selling milk, feed my family and cows. Now I’m dumping 60 per cent of the milk produced every day,” he said.
At Lassipora Industrial Estate, Zum Zum milk processing plant was buying 22,000 litres from dairy farmers before the lowdown. Today it has dropped to just 10,000 litres.
“We purchase milk and process it in the unit based on demand in the market. Since our sales have lowered after corona curfew, we are forced to limit our procurement to 50-60 per cent,” said Shafat Shah, owner of the dairy plant.
Turned away from various dairy plants, dozens of farmers decided to dump milk and emptied vessels in a drain. Farmers say it’s painful to throw milk away but they have been left with no option.
“We don’t know how we and our cows will survive in such a situation. We appeal to the Governor to intervene and save and us and our cows,” said Zahoor Ahmad.
The farmers say educated youth have chosen dairy farming as a means of employment but because of lockdown and no access to market, many are selling their cows.
“I spent over Rs 300 to feed a cow daily. How can I feed her if I can’t sell milk. I have taken loan from a bank and set up my dairy farm. The government should intervene and come to our rescue,” said Sajad Ahmad, a dairy farmer.