I was lucky enough to spend the weekend in New Delhi a few weeks ago and once my senses had adjusted to the colours, noise, smells and overwhelming density of the crowds around me – my mind quickly turned to food. And I am not talking about spices!
While wandering around Connaught Place in the heart of New Delhi a sudden commotion caught my eye and I wasn’t the only one who stopped to look. A milk truck with a fresh delivery was filling up metal milk pails at the side of the road and a tiny stall was suddenly the place to be. (see picture)
I watched as a hundred or so people started to fight their way to the front of a queue to get their hands on fresh milkshakes and lassi. And, when I finally managed to get my hands on one, the lightly cardamom flavoured drink was truly delicious.
So what is the importance of milk for the economy in India?
One of the major sources for livelihood in rural areas, animal husbandry is of crucial importance.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Statistics Division (FAOSTAT) produced some very interesting data on milk production in India, especially when compared to the USA.
In 2005 India produced 95,619,000 tonnes of milk compared to 80,254,500 in the USA; India therefore produced 19% more product to sell to the market. But, by 2011, India is producing 119,444,000 Tonnes to the USA’s 89,015,200; India increasing the gap to a 34% difference.
And it isn’t just milk:
FAOSTAT: Animals for food production in USA, 2013
· 89,299,600 – Cattle and Buffalo
· 67,775,000 – Pigs
· 2,164,30 – Poultry birds
· 8,146,000 - Sheep & Goats
FAOSTAT: Animals for food production in India, 2013
· 298,400,00 – Cattle and Buffalo
· 10,130,000 - Pigs
· 731,700 – Poultry birds
· 197,800,000 – Sheep & Goats
“Operation Flood” is an initiative by state and central government to see India become the world’s largest milk producer, overtaking the European Union. The aim is by FY16 to see milk production at 151 million tonnes from the 138 million tonnes reported in FY14.
Ind-Ra, The India Ratings and Research body has said "We expect the dairy sector's market size to increase 15.6% year-on-year in FY16. Milk production is forecast to grow at 4.6% y-o-y in FY16.”
So, it would seem that the rush to follow the milk pail is not only keeping Indians in the suburbs cool on some very hot summer days; it is what is driving India’s massive rural economy.
And with over 80% of India’s 1.2 billion population believing cows are a sacred animal in the Hindu religion; it is an interesting situation to find themselves in.
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