The Dairy Sector in India
Claire Aubron, Associate Professor at The National Institute of Higher Education in Agricultural Sciences, Montpellier SupAgro, participated in a conference about India with the Académie d'Agriculture de France on 10th February. Following her 18 month mission in India, at the International Livestock Research Institute, working on the dairy sector there, she was invited to speak about her research programme.

■ Could you tell us how this research programme was set-up?

I set the project up on my own, finding the laboratory in India which would host me, defining the focus on Indian dairy farming  and finding financial backing. The European AgreenSkills programme provided funding and two research units agreed to support my project: SELMET and ILRI along with the Science Council from Montpellier SupAgro and the Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities in Delhi. Since April 2015 I have been coordinating the IndiaMilk project, financed by an INRA-CIRAD metaprogramme. This means the involvement of around ten researchers working on this topic. I work a lot with students who spend a couple of months in the field, carrying out observations and interviews with farmers of the area.

■ What were your reasons for choosing this topic?


The biggest producer of milk in the world is India. They have 70 million dairy farms, many of which are small and sometimes without any access to arable land. There are macro data and statistics on dairy, yet little is known about the practices implemented by dairy farmers on the ground.

With the AMUL cooperative and the National Dairy Development Board, India has devised a milk collection model considered as very inclusive for the small producers. Our research project aims to identify the  impact of this booming dairy industry on the country’s development, and especially on the more fragile rural family income.

■ What have you found out?

Feeding the livestock is a major issue in India: with little land available, only farmers with large access to land and water can grow fodder for their animals. The others must rely on crop residues and spontaneous vegetation. Our study shows that a family can live on the income from 0.4 hectare of land on an irrigated plain, combining crops with animal husbandry of 1 to 3 head of livestock, cattle or buffalo. For those who have no land the situation is far more complex.

The cooperative milk collection system set up by the NDDB is efficient, professional and effectively includes all categories of dairy farmers. We are currently investigating to what extent the dairy farmers do participate in the decisions taken at every level inside the cooperative. Also, the reasons for the varying success of the milk collection system in other parts of the country need identifying.


■ What is the follow-up to your study?

To pursue the work: the subject is far from being completely covered! We need to carry out more field studies in contrasted areas, to go further in their comparison and to link them with a global understanding of the changes taking place in the dairy sector at regional and national levels. Emerging dairy farming practices may be having an impact on the environment, locally and globally. This also needs to be observed. In 2016-2017, thanks to a Ph.D., several student placements and missions to India, we will move forward on these questions.

The first results of this research project are being shared through courses and through the participation in seminars like this one, but can also be consulted in an article here. We also contributed to  a report on the Indian meat sector, published by the Institut de l’Elevage in March 2016.

To see the full conference : Claire Aubron speaks at one hour into the recording.

Last update : 04/04/2016