Lockdown: Sirajganj dairy farmers in trouble again

The dairy farmers of Shahjadpur upazila in Sirajganj district have run into trouble again as the ongoing lockdown has choked the sales of milk they produce.

Shahjadpur upazila produces some 20.50 lakh litres of milk a day, but now thousands of litres of milk are wasted due to drop in its sales and lack of storage facilities, the farmers alleged.

As the demand for milk in the open market is declining due to the closure of sweetshops, tea stalls and lack of people at haats and bazaars, farmers are counting huge losses.

Visiting different areas of the upazila, the UNB correspondent found many of the farmers staging protests by dumping milk on the streets. Many farmers were also seen roaming at local markets to sell off cows as no option is left for them.

According to Sirajganj District Livestock office, a milk-processing factory was set up in 1983 in Sirajganj by Milk Vita, a cooperative state-owned enterprise. And then the upazila saw the mushrooming of cattle farms within years.

Lockdown: Sirajganj dairy farmers in trouble again

Milk Vita now collects 225,000 litres of milk from the dairy farms every day. Currently, 15,380 cooperative-based cattle farms in the district produce 2,050,000 litres of milk a day from about 10.5 lakh cattle.

According to the farmers, the cost of cattle rearing has increased steadily since the breakout of the coronavirus last year, but milk price has not gone up accordingly.

Besides, more and more cattle fall sick these days due to the consumption of adulterated cattle feed. Many cattle die of various diseases regularly, forcing the farmers to sell the ones that are alive at lower prices.

Abdus Samad Fakir, a local dairy farmer and director of Shahjadpur Milk Vita, said big dairy feed-producing companies, including Aarong and Igloo buy around 3.5 lakh litres of milk every day. The remaining milk is sold to sweetshops and restaurants across the country, including Dhaka.

Sanwar Hossain, owner of Jamirta Farm, said opportunities for various economic activities have been created in Shahjadpur centering milk production. Some people transport milk while some others buy cow dung and make manure and many others cultivate grass and sell that.

Sourov Hossain, owner of Sourov Daily Limited, said 20 among his 70 cattle produce 300 litres of milk every day.

“I can’t sell the produced milk at fair prices as there’s no demand for it now due to the lockdown. The loss this year might even be more than last year’s,” he said, adding, “We can’t continue our business if the government doesn’t support us by providing a stimulus package.”

Sirajganj District Livestock officer Akhtaruzzaman Bhuiyan said, “We’ve urged the big dairy companies, including Pran, Aarong and Milk Vita, to keep purchasing milk from local farmers during the lockdown.”

He also said the district administration will sell the remaining milk of the farmers through mobile vehicles and livestock officers will monitor this campaign.

Besides, he said, the district administration will urge the government to announce a stimulus package for the dairy farmers.

Source: United News of Bangladesh