Covid-19 and the consequent lockdown have had a crippling impact on industries across the breadth of Bangladesh. One of them is the dairy sector.
In Jashore district, for instance, it was a double whammy for the 3,000-plus small dairy farmers in 2020 — first their businesses were hit by the sudden disappearance of demand due to the pandemic and then they found themselves unable to buy fodder for their cattle.
For the past several months, these marginal farmers are counting losses. Whether they give milk or it sells, cows need fodder and water everyday.
Mafizur Rahman, president of the Dairy and Fattening Milk Cooperative Association in Sadar upazila, says at least 200 dairy farms registered with the society are still reeling under the impact of coronavirus.
“A drop in demand of milk since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, and now an increase in fodder price and daily wages of workers — these are only adding to the woes of the already distressed dairy farmers of Jashore,” he says.
According to the District Livestock Department, there are some 3,032 dairy farms in Jashore. Of these, 670 small farms are in Sadar upazila, which also has 40 big dairy farms.
Some 4.36 lakh litres of milk are produced daily in the district but the supply is outpacing demand. As a result, many farmers are forced to sell milk at Tk 45 a litre as against the market price of Tk 60-65 a litre.
As these farmers don’t have the means to preserve and process milk, authorities say they are ready to extend a helping hand to the dairy farmers of the district to keep their farms afloat. Sources say an initiative has been taken to set up a processing plant in the district.
“Once a milk processing plant is established in Jessore, the dairy farms will prosper. At the same time, excess milk could be supplied to other districts for meeting their demands,” says an official, unwilling to be named.
Ranjit Kumar Das, an official at Jessore Sadar Upazila Cooperative Society, says that a project has been already undertaken to set up a milk processing plant “and the process to acquire land for the plant is also underway”.
“It will soon be possible to make a white revolution in Jessore once a processing plant comes up in the district,” he adds.