India is world’s biggest and the fastest growing market for food and the organized dairy sector alone would create 1.2 crore new jobs over the next 10 years, says Dr R S Sodhi, Managing Director, Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Limited (Amul).
Dr Sodhi said that the organized dairy sector in India was set to grow from $30 billion to $110 bn over the next decade and there were enormous opportunities for investors in the entire value chain, from animal breeding and feeding to logistics and packaging. India produces 21% of the milk in the world and India’s milk market was growing at 5% whereas the global milk market was growing at 1.8%, he pointed out. “Amul had not invested overseas because the market and the growth, both are in India,” he said.
Dr Sodhi was speaking at an online dialogue organized by All India Management Association (AIMA). The session was moderated by AIMA President, Mr Sanjay Kirloskar and it was anchored by AIMA Director General, Ms Rekha Sethi.
Mr Kirloskar pointed out that India had helped many countries tide over their food supply issues during the covid crisis and the country had the potential to be one of the key food providers to the world. However, he added that the bulk of India’s food exports were commodity and the value-added, processed food exports from India were yet to achieve popular acceptance in the global markets. Dr Sodhi said that while India could not be the food provider to the world, it could certainly be dairy products provider to the world.
Commenting on the relationship between food exports and farmer incomes, Dr Sodhi said, “To give good price to farmers, we have to focus on the Indian market. We’ll lose money exporting to US and Europe,” he said. He argued that Indian farmers remained poor because the urban lobby painted food price increase as harmful to the economy. “When we raise milk price by Rs 1-2, it makes headlines and newspapers raise the issue of food inflation,” he said. People who spend Rs 400 on a pizza complain about even the minutest increases in raw food prices, he remarked.
During covid, Dr Sodhi said, India had no food shortage because the the country was self-sufficient in food. He argued that Indian farmers needed protection from cheap imports if the country was to remain self-sufficient in food despite rapidly growing demand for food from a prospering population. He pointed out that India used to be self-sufficient in edible oils till the urban lobby complained about prices and got the government to permit duty-free imports, which resulted in 70% reliance on imported edible oils.
Regarding the impact of vegan movement on the dairy sector, Dr Sodhi said that it was an American phenomenon and the demand for dairy products had fallen 10% in that country. In India, he said, if a few lakh people exit the dairy market, millions of new consumers join each year. “In India, milk is a part of nutrition,” he said.