India’s White Revolution: Achievements and the Next Phase

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Context: NITI Aayog has released a working paper titled India’s White Revolution: Achievements and the Next Phase.

Trends of India’s Milk Production

Phase I – From Independence to White Revolution: Before the introduction of White Revolution, the annual growth of milk production was merely 1.36% between 1950-51 to 1973-74 which was less than the growth in population of India.

This led to decline of per capita milk output from 132 grams in 1955-56 to 110 grams in 1973-74 i.e., a drop of 15% in this period. This led to a serious shortage of milk and milk products in India. The shortage was met partly through import and aid in the form of milk powder.

Phase II – From White Revolution: Dairy sector has shown very impressive growth since the beginning of Operation Flood, launched in 1970 to increase milk production. Operation flood resulted in milk production outpacing population growth after 1973/74. Fast growth in milk output enabled India to raise per capita milk production to 387 grams per person per day by year 2018-19 which is higher than average Recommended Dietary Allowance from India.

Phase III – Recent trend in milk production: In last decade, milk production has increased by 5.3% due to shift in emphasis from exotic breeds to indigenous breeds. 

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Factors contributing to success of White Revolution

  • Institution of cooperatives especially for milk marketing: Growth of milk production requires efficient marketing of milk. Wherever marketing outlets were established to procure milk, dairy sector has witnessed impressive growth. Cooperatives have played a major role in this regard. 
  • Investments in milk processing
  • Artificial insemination in cows
  • Absence of restrictive regulations on milk marketing & trade

Snapshot India’s dairy sector

  • Dairy sector contributes one-fourth of total income generated in agriculture sector and this share has been rising. Thus, dairy & livestock sector has played a prominent role in growth of agriculture. 
  • Per capita production of milk in India has now exceeded the recommended dietary allowance (RDA). RDA for milk is 377 grams per person per day for India, as recommended by the National Institute for Nutrition under ICMR.
  • India is the largest milk producing nation in the world with one-fourth of global production. Earlier, USA was the largest producer of milk in the world. However, share of India in world milk output has almost doubled in last 25 years.  
  • Per capita absorption of milk and milk products has almost doubled during the last 20 years. This growth in the intake of milk and milk products implies that milk has made highest contribution to improve nutrition in India. 
  • Growth of dairy sector has been pro-poor and pro-women besides being resilient. Growth of milk does not require particular endowments like irrigation, good soil etc. 
  • Dairy sector has been growing despite input subsidies or output price support. 
  • Much of the growth in milk output during the last 50 years is due to an increase in the population of dairy animals. Number of female bovines in India increased from 122.7 million in 1972 to 246.7 million in 2019 (doubling). 

Challenges of Dairy Sector

  1. Low productivity of milch animals:
    • According to FAO, milk yield of Indian cows is 2/3rd of World average and it is much less compared to milk yield in developed countries. World average milk yield per cow is 7.2 kg and in India it is 4.87 kg.
    • There is wide variation in milk yield across states. Milk yield of cows ranges from 1.49 kg in Assam to 13.31 kg in Punjab. Similarly, daily milk output per buffalo varies from low of 1.61 kg in Odisha to 9.63 kg in Haryana.
  2. Increased emission of greenhouse gases by ruminants: Doubling population of female bovines means GHG emissions by dairy animals has doubled in the last 50 years. 
  3. Very low share of export: Success of white revolution has not translated into export of milk products from India. Dairy exports constitute only 2.6% of India’s agri-exports which is much lower than 24% share of milk output in value of crop and livestock output. World dairy exports stood at US $63 billion in 2021 whereas India’s dairy exports was only US$392 million (0.62% of world dairy exports).
  4. High antibiotic usage in dairy sector: Chemicals are indiscriminately used in commercial dairy which adversely affects quality of livestock and milk. Urine and dung of animals with chemicals affects soil microbes and greenhouse gas emissions. 

Way Forward

  1. Increasing productivity of milch animals: There is a need to focus on increasing milk output per animal both on a national basis and on regional basis.
    • On the national level, increase in productivity needs breed improvement, improved breeding practices like Artificial Insemination, better feeding and better maintenance and health-care of livestock.
    • Regionally, the focus should be on states where per cow milk yield are low as compared to national average i.e., Assam, North-eastern states, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha & West Bengal.
  2. Meeting consumer expectations: Dairy industry needs to evolve to meet consumer preferences for various types and traits of milk. Today, consumers in cities prefer fresh or unprocessed milk or cow milk. Dairy value chain should aim to meet such demand. 
  3. Promoting milk exports: As domestic milk production is already crossing recommended dietary allowance for milk and slowing down of population growth with milk production expected to grow by 6%, India is expected to see surplus milk production which can be channelised to some exports. However, dairy exports have seen a big increase in recent years. Milk & milk products has increased four times after 2017-18. Dairy export doubled in 2021-22 to reach Rs. 4742 crore and increased by 64 per cent in volume. Still exports are less than 0.5 percent of total domestic production of milk. 

Steps to promote milk exports are:

  • Investments in milk value chain and tapping markets of high-end developed countries.
  • Milk as a solution for nutritional deficiency: Milk should be promoted as a critical input for addressing nutritional deficiency and improving health outcomes in India, especially in children & women. Income elasticity of demand for milk and dairy products is high. 
  • Export competitiveness & FTAs involving milk: India’s domestic milk industry is opposed to FTAs that involves liberalisation of trade (import) in dairy products. If India wishes to capture overseas dairy markets than our milk industry needs to export competitive. Thus, India’s dairy industry needs to increase its competitiveness and confidently compete with imports and export markets. 
  • Milk valued added products: Focusing on exports of milk value added and processed products rather than liquid milk alone. 
  • Milk Quality: Compliances with high sanitary & phyto-sanitary standards of countries particularly in developed markets.
  • Livestock health: Steps to promote vaccination and disease free areas like foot mouth disease free areas, as some developed countries require this.
  1. Adopting food systems approach: Integrated livestock and crop systems are organised in a complementary and in synergy. India’s agriculture is transitioning to natural & organic farming for this animal dung and urine are critical inputs. Using by-products from dairy to produce organic & bio-inputs is a win-win for both dairy and crop sector. 
  2. Dairy pricing: Currently, fat content in milk is the sole criteria for pricing of milk. There is a need to develop measurements and standards around other traits like solid-not-fats in milk. 
  3. Sustainability of dairy sector: There is a need to monitor the presence of antibiotics and other chemicals in milk and check it. 

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