As a statewide strike by dairy farmers in Maharashtra entered the fourth day today, the state government engaged with the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS), the outfit leading the stir.
The indefinite strike, in demand of higher procurement prices, started July 16.
Despite a 20% drop in supply, Mumbai is unaffected so far due to available stocks. However, officials warn the situation may get worse from tomorrow.
What are they striking about?
SSS leader Raju Shetti, who is leading the agitation, said procurement rates of milk have fallen more than 30% in the last nine months; compared to Rs. 24-27 per liter earlier, farmers are now receiving just Rs. 17-18.
But farmers have to spend Rs. 20-25 to produce a liter of milk.
They now want a subsidy of Rs. 5 per liter.
But why are prices falling?
Vishnu Hingane, Chairman of Pune's Katraj Milk Co-operative Dairy, explained the situation. "International rates of milk powder and butter decreased due to oversupply 8-9 months ago. That led dairies to cut down the export of both. As they were not earning a profit, the dairies cut down procurement rates."
Rates of milk powder have also fallen from Rs. 160-170 to Rs. 100-115, he added.
Shetti terms government's recently-announced incentives a "fraud"
Dairies have offered a hike of Rs. 3 in procurement rates, but Shetti is adamant on a government subsidy.
Last week, the government announced incentives of Rs. 50/kg of milk powder and Rs. 5/L of milk to exporters.
But Shetti called it a "fraud." "11L milk is needed to make 1kg of milk powder. Thus, dairies would get Rs. 50/kg."
CM to discuss Shetti's proposals at a meeting today
Yesterday, Shetti finally met Maharashtra Irrigation Minister Girish Mahajan in Mumbai and proposed two options: a subsidy of Rs. 5, or minimum procurement rate of Rs. 25.
The options are scheduled to be discussed today at a Nagpur meeting between CM Devendra Fadnavis and milk societies.
Meanwhile, protests intensified today as farmers along with their families and cattle blocked highways, disrupting supply of essentials.