Coronavirus outbreak: Lockdown affects production of milk products

Updated: 27 March, 2020 12:23 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

Though milk is an essential commodity, the drivers who transport the milk are often stopped by the police

A milk collection centre in Ahmednagar
A milk collection centre in Ahmednagar

Despite being declared as an essential commodity, the lockdown across the state has affected the dairy manufacturers as well as those producing packaging material. While daily manufacturers have had to stop production of milk products due to a severe shortage of labour, plastic manufacturers are not able to procure raw materials due to transportation issues.

Prakash Kutwal, secretary of the Milk Producers and Processors' Welfare Federation said that while collection of milk has not been affected, sale of milk has dropped significantly since 80 per cent of the labourers needed in the factories are not showing up to work. "Production of milk products have completely stopped. Currently, we are only selling milk pouches and the sale has been affected since the local police are shutting down shops that sell milk. Even though milk is an essential commodity, the drivers who transport the milk are often stopped by the police," said Kutwal.

Kutwal added that due to the lockdown ordered in the state, villages have shut their roads and family members of labourers are not letting them go to work. "The villagers want us to pick up their milk but don't want to send the labour for work. We have sent people to villages to convince labourers to come to work. We only have around 20 per cent of staff and we need more manpower," he said. According to the federation, Mumbai receives around 60 lakh litres of milk every day of which 40 lakh litres come in pouches while the rest are sold loose or used for milk products which have now stopped.

Since milk is currently only being sold in pouches, the packaging material is also essential. Nikhil Rathi, Secretary of Maharashtra Plastic Manufacturers' Association said that the manufacturing of packaging material has dropped by 30 per cent and the problems will increase if the state government doesn't intervene. "The raw materials for the pouches come mainly from Jamnagar and Hajira in Gujarat. Since the borders have been sealed, the availability of raw materials has been affected especially at the checkpoints. The government has to allow movement of truck carrying raw material for of milk as an essential commodity. We have an inventory of material for 8-10 days. But what to do after that?" he said.

Rathi added that they are also facing a shortage of labour. "Around 30 per cent of our labour are not showing up and those who are, are facing difficulties finding transportation to get to the factory. We have approached the district collectors but they say they can't do anything," said Rathi.

While the daily manufacturers met with Animal Husbandry and Dairy Development minister Sunil Kedar on Tuesday, members of plastic association wrote to the chief secretary Ajoy Mehta. Kedar stated that while the state can't do much to address the shortage of labourers, he promised to look into the other issues immediately. "Milk as well as its packaging material are essential commodities. I will speak to the collectors and local police about allowing them access," he said.

Bhushan Gagrani, principal secretary said that employees of factories producing essential commodities like milk or packaging material should carry a letter from their employers. "Essential commodities will not be affected by the lockdown. There may, however, be certain operational issues. People should keep a form of self certification. We will speak to the collectors and ask them to inform the local police to allow them to go to the factories," he said.

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First Published: 27 March, 2020 07:10 IST

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