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Posted at: Nov 20, 2019, 7:31 AM; last updated: Nov 20, 2019, 7:31 AM (IST)

Punjab agencies giving tough time to Una Milkfed plant

Procure large amount of milk from district without paying fee
Punjab agencies giving tough time to Una Milkfed plant
The plant at Lalsingi village in Una district. Photo by writer

Rajesh Sharma

Una, November 19

The milk processing plant owned by HP Milkfed (HP State Cooperative Milk Producers Federation) located at Lalsingi village in Una district is facing trouble as competitors from Punjab, including state-owned Verka, are sourcing a sizable amount of the commodity from farmers in Una district.

The processing plant has the capacity to pasteurise merely 5,000 litres of milk every day. The milk is procured only from about 12 village-level cooperatives, mostly located along the Una to Kangra highway. After pasteurising, it is transported to the Kangra milk processing plant of Milkfed from where it is distributed mostly to military cantonments in Kangra district.

According to information gathered from the Una processing plant, HP Milkfed procures cow milk with 4 per cent butter fat (BF) and 8 per cent solid-not-fat (SNF) content from farmers at the rate of Rs 26 and 16 paise per litre, while the procurement rate of buffalo milk with 5.5 per cent fat and 8.6 per cent SNF content is Rs 36 and 95 paise per litre.

While the Una milk plant was set up for producing four products, namely toned and standardised milk, butter and ghee, but only blended cow and buffalo milk is processed now.

According to Naeem Baksh, a livestock rearer from Takarla, there is a cooperative in the village and a Milkfed vehicle comes every day to pick up milk. He says Verka offers them Rs 30.33 per litre for cow milk compared to Rs 25.16 being given by Himfed. Moreover, Verka gives an additional Re 1 per litre as incentive, besides reimbursing the cost of medicines when an animal falls sick.

According to rough estimates, procurement agencies such as Verka, Milk Today, Doaba Milk and Super Milk, all from Punjab, have captured the milk producing market comprising farmers living in bordering areas of Una district and together they collect about 15,000 to 16,000 litres from Una every day.

Verka has even set up two collection centres at Mehatpur and Pekhubela villages while their agents ferry milk on two-wheelers from far off Chowki Maniar and Batuhi villages. The produce is transported every day to the Mohali and Hoshiarpur plants of Verka, right under the nose of the Milkfed authorities.

Subhash Lath, technical superintendent and in-charge of Una Milkfed plant, admits that this year they are short of the daily required milk. He says that while they are paying one per cent fee to the Una Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) for the milk being procured, Verka has been evading fee payment. Balbir Bagga, Chairman of the district APMC, says that he was recently informed about fee evasion and he had written to the Verka authorities, directing them to pay it, failing which their vehicles would be impounded.

The local staff could not explain the gap of Rs 5 per litre in the procurement prices between Milkfed and Verka but said all decisions were taken at the headquarters. Meanwhile, farmers feel alienated as there is no proper communication from the Milkfed authorities, while Verka people always extend a helping hand to them and also give premium prices for their produce.

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