High court maintains milk price at Rs32 a litre
KARACHI, May 8: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday, overruling the notification of the City District Government of Karachi (CDGK) regarding fixing of fresh milk price, maintained the interim retail and wholesale milk prices, earlier fixed by court at Rs32 and Rs30 per litre respectively.
The SHC's division bench comprising Justice Sarmad Jalal Usmani and Justice Ali Sain Dino Metlo directed that the interim fresh milk prices in Karachi be continued.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by the All-Karachi Milk Retailers Welfare Association against fixing retail price of fresh milk at Rs28 per litre by the CDGK.
Why milk prices have been fluctuating
The City District Government (CDGK) may be over-simplifying the situation when it claims that retailers are behind the current price rise in milk, The News has learnt. Milk prices have been rising unchecked in Karachi over the past few months. While this has been a source of distress for citizens, there are many who argue that it is not the retailers who are to blame for the spiral.
While the CDGK insists that the retailers are indulging in profiteering, investigations by The News say that it is not as simple as that. The retailers have been charging higher prices also to make up for their costs, including the cost at which milk is bought. As reported earlier, everyone who is associated with the entire milk industry from the farm, down to the main market, which includes dairy farmers, wholesalers (middlemen), and retailers, all provide their own justification for the raising prices.
This is not to mention that all price hikes are not arbitrary in nature. In some instances where this has been the case, the culprits are mainly dairy farmers. Primarily, however, it is the price of fodder along with the maintenance of the cattle stock that has affected and is bound to continue to affect the price of the milk eventually sold in the market, say analysts.
According to information gathered by this correspondent, the Pakistan dairy industry started to grow very rapidly by the late 80s, and several new milk marketing outlets became available. As a result, many milk processing units were installed in peri-urban areas. The rapidly increasing urban population provided a lucrative milk market and dairy farming became an attractive option for businessmen providing a boost to the peri-urban and urban forage production and supply business.
By the most recently recorded statistics, the agricultural sector contributes about 24 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country, with the dairy industry having the largest share (57 per cent) in the livestock sector.
Nevertheless, the milk produced by urban dairies does not satisfy town needs. The consumption and demand for milk is higher in urban areas than in rural areas, but its production cost is lower in the countryside and with the help of improved transport systems, large quantities of milk are transported from rural areas to urban areas daily. The infrastructure is still not of very high quality, and there is less milk being transported than should be. So the low quality of roads is one limiting factor for the transportation of milk.
In Karachi, the main dairy farm is located in Korangi Area, in Cattle (Bhains) Colony. From here, the milk has to be transported to the main Mandi, the Lea Market, where it is sold in wholesale. The retailers buy the milk in wholesale from Lea Market with the last stop being their shops, which are located in markets and neighbourhoods, whereas some milkmen buy milk directly from the main wholesale market, and provide it to houses on their motorcycles, or bicycles. These middlemen manage to purchase milk early in the morning at much lower prices than in city markets. Due to high prices in bigger towns and cities, milk is transported on the roofs of buses from hundreds of kilometres and payment is usually monthly.
Poorer farmers owning only two or three buffaloes and cows usually find their animal feed and meet some of the important domestic needs from milk money. These small dairymen are content earning sufficient profit in meeting their family needs of milk and animal feed from the sale of the milk and still manage to save reasonable amounts.
According to the Chairman of Consumer Association of Pakistan, Kaukab Iqbal, there is another major issue which is that the supply is not being able to meet the demand. Iqbal says that the main problem is caused by the packaged milk suppliers who buy fresh milk from the open market, and then package it. This causes a dearth in supply, thereby increasing the proportion of demand.
Milk production has risen by at least 80 per cent over the past decade but the proportion produced by buffaloes and cows has remained fairly stable with a possible small increase in cow milk. The milk production is definitely low, and the reason for that is low maintenance of the cattle, especially with regard to fodder and feed. There is a great need to enhance the yield of milk per animal, and this should be done through improvement in the genetic potential of local breeds and production of high quality fodder and feed, say market experts.
This points out to another factor, which is connected to causing high prices, and also to the low maintenance of the animal. According to dairy farmer, Haji Akhtar, the scarcity of feed, and its high cost is a major limiting factor in urban dairying. At present there is insufficient quantity as well as quality of fodder, so animals are underfed, weak, thin, and