How about MSP for cattle fodder?

RBI has only been talking about food inflation as it hits the 'human belly'. But what about the 'cow’s belly'?
Last Updated : 21 August 2022, 20:28 IST
Last Updated : 21 August 2022, 20:28 IST

Follow Us :


During a recent trip to Hyderabad in Telangana, this author met a very enterprising former NRI, who lived in the USA and has since returned to the motherland and set up a dairy farm to supply the people of the city with fresh cow milk and curd. Of course, the price for both items was quite high by normal standards but the quality was rich and incomparable. The curd from ‘Sid Farm’ (named after his son Siddharth) was unparalleled in taste. The cows are fed fresh fodder, allowed to freely graze, unlike the normal course in dairy farms where the animals are permanently stationed in very small enclosures with hardly any space to move about. Being strict vegetarians, the only food my wife and I enjoyed during the entire Hyderabad stay was the Sid Farm curd.

Back in Lokra village in Haryana, a similar story unfolded when Mangat Ram decided to start dairy farming. The connecting link between both the Hyderabad-based dairy farmer and Mangat Ram is the availability of quality fodder, or more precisely, what it costs to feed their cows with quality fodder. Mangat Ram’s dairy enterprise kept soaring and by the turn of 2021, he owned 39 cows, calves and bulls. He was earning Rs 2.43 lakh per month from the sale of milk.

The former NRI’s fortune ran into crores because of the unparalleled quality of the products; almost the whole of affluent Hyderabadians bought Sid Farm curd and milk. But something soured by the turn of 2021, and it was precisely the price of the fodder fed to the cows. It jumped from Rs 4,250 per tonne in November 2021 to Rs 15,000 in May 2022, a rise of 352%, which works out to a monthly increase of 58.8% — an unparalleled increase for any item sold in India.

The Reserve Bank of India has only been talking about food inflation as it hits the “human belly”. But what about the “cow’s belly”? Clearly, this is a Baconian mindset.

A shining example

The Uttar Pradesh government departments have asked their employees, including teachers, to fan out and seek donation of fodder for goshalas. The state has some 1.18 million stray cattle as per the 20th Livestock Census. Of these, 0.85 million have been kept in government-supported goshalas which are unable to provide fodder for the cattle due to the steep increase in price. About 7,000 tonnes of fodder is required by these goshalas. The state is unable to provide this huge quantity to keep the starving cattle alive. Though the government has been prodding farmers to donate fodder, no tangible results have been obtained, and it seems a number of cows will starve to death in these goshalas.

Nearly 50% of the fodder demand of the livestock sector is met through wheat residues. And when the main wheat crop is adversely affected — by extreme warm weather followed by unseasonal rains, as had happened in Punjab — it has a ripple effect on cattle fodder. It is cyclic.

Punjab and Haryana are witnessing a changing crop pattern. Farmers are increasingly growing mustard in place of wheat because the former commands a better price. However, unlike wheat residue, mustard residue is not fed to the cattle. Two years ago, no farmer grew mustard in Punjab. Now, 10% of Punjab farms are reserved for mustard. As of now, there is a 20-25% fodder shortage, and fodder rates will not fall in the next five years if the wheat acreage decreases and the mustard crop fetches high returns to the farmer.

Indian planners, with their Baconian mindset, can only think about “food security”. This author would suggest that there should be a “fodder security” in the country for cows. The Niti Aayog should be prodded to think on these lines. By ensuring a minimum support price for fodder on the lines of MSP for food grains, the country can ensure that enough quality fodder is provided to millions of starving cows, not just in goshalas but on the farms also. This would be like providing a support platform for the dairy sector, and it is bound to have a positive effect on the Indian economy. It would be like a double-edged weapon — on the one hand, India would be saving millions of lactating cows, and on the other, it would render a great boost to the dairy sector. It could be a win-win situation for all Indians.

Why are Indian planners not thinking on these lines?

(The writer is former professor, National Science Foundation, The Royal Society, Belgium)

Published 21 August 2022, 17:02 IST

Deccan Herald is on WhatsApp Channels | Join now for Breaking News & Editor's Picks

Follow us on :

Follow Us