Would India, which boasts of having the largest cattle population of the world, be forced to import milk in the next four years, thanks to increasing shortage of fodder supply? It would seem so, if a recent investigation on “rising pressure on land” leading to reduction pastures is any guide.
The investigation, carried out by Gangadhar S Patil, founder of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters, says that “spurred by rising incomes, a growing population and changing food preferences, the demand for milk and milk products will grow to at least 210 million tonnes by 2021–22, a rise of 36% over five years.”
To meet this demand, he adds, the milk production must grow by 5.5% per annum, and to boost milk yield, “India would need to generate 1,764 million tonnes of fodder by 2020” though “existing sources can only manage about 900 million tonnes of fodder–a shortage of 49%. ”
|Green fodder between 1995 and 2025|
According to him, “The milk productivity of India’s livestock is less than half (48%) of the global average: 987 kg per lactation compared to the global average of 2,038 kg per lactation”, adding, “Currently, all three types of fodder are in short supply – green (63%), dry (24%) and concentrates (76%).”
Pointing out that “only 4% of total cultivable land in India is used for fodder production, a proportion that has remained stagnant for the last four decades”, Patil says, “Considering the demand for milk, land under fodder production needs to be doubled, according to a December 2016 report of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture. ”
Quoting from the Parliamentary Committee report, Patil says, “Major portions of grazing lands have either been degraded or encroached upon”, adding, things have also gone worse because of the availability of crop residues, the largest single source of fodder, thanks to “increasing pressure on land and the replacement of traditional cereal crops, especially coarse ones.”
|Dry fodder between 1995 and 2025|
According to Patil, as feed cost constituting “about 60-70% of operating expenses on dairy farms”, those who would suffer most would be small and marginal farmers, who constitute “nearly 70% of India’s milk producers.
“The contribution of livestock to the incomes of landless and small farmers ranges between 20-50%, and the poorer the family, the greater the potential of dairy farming’s contribution to livelihood”, he adds.