Dairy farmers and wholesalers of Manikganj and Pabna have been counting continuous losses due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Since the shutdown, the demand for milk and its price have been decreasing. Although the shops have started reopening, the prices have not yet increased.
In Manikganj, farmers and traders said the milk price has decreased by Tk10 per litre on average and has not increased yet. As a result, they have counted more than Tk86.30 crore in losses over the last five months.
Manikganj produces more cow milk than the annual target and about 70-80 percent of it is supplied to its neighboring districts, including Dhaka, after meeting local demand.
District Livestock office data shows the annual target for cow milk production in Manikganj is 1.95 lakh tonnes. There are 8,559 small and large farms in the district. However, 2.1 lakh tonnes of milk is produced in the district per year. As such, the daily production is 575.34 tonnes.
If there is a loss of Tk10 per litre of milk, then the loss to the farmers of the district is Tk57.53 lakh per day for selling milk. As such, farmers and traders have lost more than Tk86.30 crore selling milk in the last five months.
Farmers also said that during the shutdown they had to sell milk at a lower price. They could not sell milk at even Tk20 per litre. As there is no method for milk storage, they were forced to sell milk at low prices.
Although the situation is almost normal, the price of milk has not increased. So, they are counting continuous losses, they added.
Abdul Karim, a farmer in Saturia Bazar, said earlier, milk was sold for Tk55 to 60 per litre on the retail market. At different festivals, milk used to sell for Tk70 to 80 and sometimes for Tk90 to 100. However, the price of milk has declined since the Covid-19 outbreak. Now milk is sold at Tk40 to 45 a litre.
However, farmers and traders of the district demanded a fair price for milk be set very soon.
Ohed Ali, a milk wholesaler at Saturia's Khunirtek Bazar, said for almost a decade, he has sold 10 maunds of milk a day to a supermarket in the capital from this bazaar. They make kheer from that milk.
He said earlier, the wholesale price of kheer was Tk320 per kilogramme. However, due to the decline in sales in the shop during Covid-19, now the price of kheer per kilogramme is Tk300.
Businessman Helal Mia said one kilogramme of kheer is usually made from six litres of milk. If the price of kheer is Tk300 per kilogramme, the milk price falls to Tk50 per litre. There is also a transportation cost. That is why buying milk at a price of more than Tk45 causes a loss.
Manikganj District Dairy Association President Mahinur Rahman said recent floods have damaged grazing land, so cows have had to be reared with more expensive feed.
"Now even if milk is sold at Tk50 per litre, there is a loss. Milk is sold for Tk40 to 45 at most markets," he said.
District livestock officer Dr Mahbubul Islam admitted that the price of milk on the retail market is lower than the price of cow feed.
Pabna dairy farmers in crisis
Dairy farmers in Pabna are in a severe crisis as milk processors, including the state-owned Milkvita, stopped collecting milk on March 24 due to the Covid-19 shutdown.
At that time, they had to sell milk at Tk10-15 a litre which was previously Tk40-50. After the shutdown, farmers were looking forward to recouping the losses.
However, their hopes were dashed due to the recent floods that have submerged grazing land, hiked the price of cow feed, and reduced milk collection by the processors.
Farmers said most milk processors have reduced milk intake. The production cost is Tk42 per litre of milk but the companies are paying Tk36 to Tk38 per litre.
Meanwhile, the prices of all types of cow feed, including khail and chitagur, have gone up since Eid-ul-Fitr. The price of husk, which was Tk1,250 per sack weighing 37 kilogrammes, has gone up to Tk1,420. Straw which was Tk300 is now sold at Tk400.
Fazlur Rahman from Pabna's Bhangura said farmers of Bhangura and Chatmohar upazilas are selling milk for Tk30-35. In some areas, milk is being sold at Tk25.
National award-winning farmer Mahfuza Meena said, "My farm produces 200 to 250 liters of milk per day. As milk processors have reduced milk collection we are compelled to sell milk at a lower price on the local market."
Dairy farmers have urged the government to come forward with a stimulus package to save the thriving dairy industry. Otherwise, it will not be possible to sustain this industry, they said.
They also demanded controls on the price of cattle feed or a government subsidy for it.
Baghabari Milkvita Factory DGM Dr Idris Ali said demand for milk took a nosedive on the market due to Covid-19 and 900 tonnes of powdered milk remain unsold–stored in warehouses. Despite this, the factory is being kept open for the sake of the farmers.