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As its cup of milk runneth over, India wants to export. But there’s a problem

‘Indian milk’ fails many leading international specifications for quality

milk-reuters (File) Representational image | Reuters

At 21 crore tonnes a year, India is the world’s biggest producer of milk. Nonetheless, you are very unlikely to find a glass of it in most other countries.

The reason? ‘Indian milk’ fails many leading international specifications for quality, primarily due to the possibility of the presence of foot and mouth disease (FMD) virus.

It will be one of the boiling topics of discussion at the upcoming World Dairy Summit, to be held in Greater Noida on the outskirts of the national capital in September. The summit was announced by the Union minister of state for fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying Sanjeev Kumar Balyan in Delhi on Tuesday.

The annual meeting of the global dairy sector, bringing together CEOs of dairy processing companies, government representatives, dairy farmers, suppliers and experts is being held in India after 48 years.

“We have set in motion an intensive vaccination programme costing 13,500 crore aimed at eradicating FMD by 2025,” said Balyan about the concerns over export restrictions on Indian milk.

Even a universal vaccination coverage in two years may still take up to 2030 before Indian milk can hope to make the cut for export eligibility, an issue that is likely to curdle over at the Dairy Summit.

The ban on Indian milk, especially in the European Union (EU) and the UK has been a bone of contention in the negotiations with both parties presently over reaching a free trade agreement (FTA).

The reason given for the ban is that Indian milk does not meet food safety standards, primarily referring to FMD. The vocal Indian dairy industry has been vociferous that they be kept outside the purview of the FTAs being negotiated, considering there is no reciprocity.

Indian government has been eager to replicate India’s success in the domestic dairy sector by turning it into an export proposition, though with little success so far. In November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the ‘Dairy Mark’, an index for quality, while the government has been working on a scheme for improving the quality of produce of indigenous breeds of cattle.

“The world will get to see India’s strides in technology in this field (at the Dairy Summit),” said the minister.

“India’s ‘dairy story’ will be shared with the world at the summit,” said Caroline Emond, DG of the International Dairy Federation. “It has been an engine of development and of women’s empowerment,” she said.


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