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Minister Allays Dairy Farmers' Fears

01 August 2019

INDIA - Agriculture and dairy must be kept out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, currently being negotiated by the Indian government with 15 other countries, Indian farmers’ unions said in a memorandum submitted to the Minister of State of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Sanjeev Kumar Balyan on Wednesday.

"Dr Balyan assured us that milk imports would not be allowed and that all efforts would be made to put dairy on the negative list of the RCEP," Kannaiyan Subramaniam, southern secretary of the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM) told The Hindu after the meeting.

Representatives of ICCFM, which includes 12 major farmers’ movements including the Bharatiya Kisan Union, Shetkari Sangathan and Tamilaga Vivasayigal Sangam, also plan to submit the memorandum to Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday. The Hindu was unable to independently confirm the details of this meeting or the assurance from the Minister.

The memorandum warns that 15 crore Indian livestock farmers who depend on dairy for their livelihood would be left devastated if the dairy market is opened up. RCEP member-countries New Zealand and Australia are aggressively seeking “to access India’s massive dairy market to dump their products,” said the farmers’ unions.

New Zealand produces 22 million tonnes of milk products and exports 19 million tonnes. However, there are only 12,000 dairy farmers in the country; in fact, there are more dairy cows than people in New Zealand.

India, on the other hand, has 15 crore dairy farmers who produce 156 million tonnes, most of it consumed domestically. R.S. Sodhi, managing director of major milk cooperative Amul, also made a presentation to Mr Goyal last week, urging the Centre to leave the dairy sector out of RCEP, a senior Amul official told The Hindu.

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Source: The Hindu

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