The production and sale of pasteurised milk have declined in the country despite Ramadan as demand has fallen due to the strict lockdown imposed by the government to restrict the spread of Covid-19 infections.
According to people concerned, every year, the demand for milk generally increases 30-40 percent in the country during Ramadan than the normal time. But that has not happened this year. However, milk producers have reduced the production of pasteurised milk in response to the falling demand.
Mostafizur Rahman, deputy managing director of Milk Vita, told The Business Standard, "Sales have declined as shops are closing in the evening due to lockdown. Milk Vita used to market 2 lakh litres of milk per day which has now been reduced to 1.5 lakh litres."
Some companies increased the price of pasteurised milk last March. The price of a litre of milk was increased from Tk65 to Tk75, half-litre milk from Tk35 to Tk40 and the price of quarter milk was increased to Tk25. At this time, the companies increased the price of milk by Tk2 at the farm level.
The reduction in production due to the Covid-19 has also affected the farmers. Farmers say that the companies increased the price by Tk2 in March. They promised to raise the price Tk2 more per litre. But that did not happen.
At present, farmers are now selling milk at Tk 27 to Tk62.65 per litre depending on the quality.
They said that the cost of milk production has increased a lot due to high prices of straw, husk, khail and scarcity of grass. According to that, the price of milk has not increased. As a result, the farmers are also under pressure. But the price of milk has not increased.
According to the Integrated Dairy Research Network (IDRN), the cost of the main ingredients of animal feed has risen by an average of 10-35 percent.
Khokon Biswas, a dairy farmer from Bhangura thana of Pabna, said "The companies had promised to increase the price of milk by Tk2 per litre. But because of the pandemic, they are not producing extra milk and are not raising the price of milk at the farm level as promised. Due to this, the farmers are not able to bear the extra cost."
Farmers say milk processing companies have not reduced their purchases of milk. However, sweetmeat factories are buying less milk than before amid the pandemic.
Among the well-known companies processing pasteurised milk are Milk Vita, Pran, Arang and Akij's Farm Fresh. The companies say that they have been facing huge losses for the last two years. Sales fell by about 50 percent last year when the first wave of Covid-19 hit the country.
They said when they were trying to overcome the situation, the second wave of the pandemic hit. Many people have left the town for villages as they have no work to do amid the lockdown. As a result, there is no extra demand for milk amid Ramadan. The demand has even fallen than the normal time.
The companies claimed that they are producing and marketing milk at an extra cost.
Md Mosleh Uddin, chief operating officer, Dairy, Akij Food & Beverage Ltd, said, "We have not reduced production yet. However, sales are a bit low. There is no additional demand in Ramadan. The pandemic situation, on the other hand, has increased costs in various stages from transportation to marketing, which has increased production costs."
"We have not reduced milk collection considering the condition of the farmers. We are trying to handle the situation by making more dairy products," he said.
People related to milk production said the country produces an average of 60 lakh litres of milk per day, a part of which is used to process pasteurised milk, another part is sold in the open market. Besides, a large part is used to make sweets and various confectionery products.
According to the Department of Livestock, 106.60 lakh tonnes of milk was produced in the country in the fiscal year 2019-20. Due to this, the average availability of milk per capita in the country has increased to 175 mg per day. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a healthy person should consume at least 250 grams of milk per day.
Meanwhile, to continue the consumption of fish, meat and milk eggs amid the pandemic, the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock has set up mobile outlets across the country, including Dhaka. These outlets are playing a big role in selling milk in this time of Covid-19.