LAHORE - The packed milk companies in a country, which is considered the fourth largest milk producing nation, have significantly dropped milk collection from the farmers and enhanced cheap powdered milk import for processing, as government has no heavy duty to stop this unbridled skimmed milk powder import to protect livestock sector.

Despite having more per capita milk than India, Pakistan was forced to import milk powder, as only five per cent of total milk production goes for processing, industry experts said.

They observed that big packaged milk companies have decreased their purchasing rate at milk collection centres across the province by almost 10 per cent to Rs32-35 per kg for the last couple of months, besides reducing collection by around 25-35 per cent, hitting the farmers hard. Zahid Rasool, livestock sector expert and consultant, said that while about 95 per cent un-processed milk is marketed in the country, just 5 per cent processing of fresh milk is now under treat due to lack of mechanism to halt import of powdered milk.

He said that milk powder in commercial food and confectionery business also increased to around 45 per cent. He said skimmed milk is used in preparing ice cream, dairy products and sweets, while dairy industries and sweet merchants also use butter fat milk powder.

He said 40 percent of powder milk import is from Ireland, 20 percent each from Holland and Sweden and the rest of the quantity is being imported from European countries.

He said that multinational companies do not print the prices on the tetra and powdered milk packs thus putting the consumers in the dark regarding the actual retail price. Retailers charge different prices as per their old and new customers.  The national as well as multinational packed milk companies, presently buying fresh milk in very limited quantity at just Rs32 per litre and the same is sold for Rs80 to Rs90 per litre, as Dairy Queen one litre milk packet is available for Rs80 at retail shops, Haleeb’s for Rs85 and Milk Pack’s 1 litre packet for Rs90.

“Its unfortunate, the same companies are selling their mineral water’s one litre bottle as high as Rs40 to customers,” Zahid observed. He said that Punjab government, including its Livestock Department has turned out to be silent spectators and giving favour to private big milk processing companies.

It seems that the slogan of white revolution to enhance meat and milk production comes to an end, he stated and asked the government to impose ban on milk import, as it is a constant hurdle in the way of livestock and dairy sector’s development in the country.

Waqar Khan, another livestock industry expert, added that government should provide protection to the export of meat, chicken products and milk to Afghanistan and central Asian states, as these markets have been developed after a long struggle and efforts of Pakistani stakeholders of livestock and dairy sectors.

He said that sector is already hit due to low genetic stock and lower productivity. He said livestock contributes 12 per cent to Pakistan’s GDP compared to 8 per cent in India. Approximately 35 million people are involved directly or indirectly with livestock and the total value of milk produced is higher than our two major crops, wheat and cotton.

Waqar observed that industry finds it easier because instead of expensive collection of milk from far and wide areas, it could get powdered milk, as its rate has also been down by around 30 per cent. He said that farmers of Punjab are suffering the most because it produces 74 per cent of total milk supply.

Comparing the USA with Pakistan in milk production, experts said that Pakistan has 5 million milk-producing animals while the US is having only 3.4 million. But in contrast the US produces about 94.5 billion litres milk annually while Pakistan produces almost 33 billion litres per year. Per animal yield of milk in the US is 28.35 litres while in Pakistan it is just 3.15 litres, they added.