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Indian dairy under threat from new trade deals

Lilabai Virkar milking her buffalo in Satara, Maharashtra, February 2019 (Photo: Medha Kale, People’s Archive of Rural India)

GRAIN | 20 June 2019

Indian dairy under threat from new trade deals

India’s 150 million small dairy farmers, local cooperatives and networks of small-scale vendors have made the country the world’s largest producer of milk and ensured its self-sufficiency. The handful of transnational corporations that dominate the global dairy industry are still only marginal players in India, and only a tiny fraction of dairy products are imported into the country or exported out. But several new trade pacts that cater to transnational corporations, like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) or the proposed deals pending with Europe, threaten to radically change the map and wipe out India’s small dairy producers.

The Indian government is currently negotiating free trade agreements (FTAs) involving all the major dairy exporting nations and dairy is a key component in most of these discussions. Already global conglomerates like Lactalis (France), Fonterra (New Zealand) and Nestle (Switzerland), as well as major financial companies, are anticipating that India will further liberalise its dairy sector and have started buying up local dairies or going into joint ventures. These FTAs will likely open India up to imports from the transnational dairy giants and enable them to take control over local production.

The large number of women dairy farmers in rural India, as well as the millions of women and men who deliver and market dairy into the urban areas, will be the first victims of duty-free imports of dairy products from Europe, New Zealand and Australia under this new wave of FTAs. Women are also the foundation of dairy cooperatives across South Asia, which will be demolished as more multinationals move in and dominate this sector.

This update from GRAIN assesses what is at stake with current trade talks for India’s dairy farmers and vendors, and the consumers they supply.

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 source: GRAIN