Ms. Selvarani, has been the Chairman of the Kulumai Milk Producers Company in Reddiarchatram Block, Dindigul, Tamil Nadu for three years now. This group of milk producers grew from just one member three years ago, (i.e. Selvarani herself), to over 875 members. Over 80% of the membes in Kulumai are women. The group now sells milk to ABT a conglomerate with milk as one of its product lines which is marketed under the ‘Shakthi’ brand name.
The members milk their cows twice a day and bring them to the collection centres and analyse the quality of the milk. From there, they are sent to ABT’s units for further processing and selling to end users. There are 20 milk collection centres spread over 20 villages.
From its early days of about 20 litres of milk per day from from members, the members together now contribute over 3000 litres of milk per day. The collection has even gone up to 5000 litresat some time.
The Kulumai Milk producer company was started mainly for the farmers to get better price as per the quality, for their milk. Many women who are part of this producer group were originally in Self Help Groups taking loans mainly for farming activities. Drought conditions over the past few years hampered farming and now they are focusing more on dairy farming. The producer company is being promoted by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), and the members avail credit support from commercial banks under their Joint Liability Scheme.
Ms. Selvarani says that one of the reasons for starting this initiative was to prevent malpractices. Previously milk vendors would come and collect their milk, but for a lesser price and also with delayed payments. The milk vendors would also claim there was less milk bought by them and withhold. Now, through their own company, the group has its own scales by which they measure the milk and get the right price for the quantity of milk sold for all the members. After accounting for input costs, members make a profit of between Rs 2000-3000 a week. The company buyer also pays them on time, mostly within a week.
Becoming the Chairperson and winning the people’s trust has not been easy for Ms. Selvarani. The first year she was elected the head, two of her cows died due to drought and she had difficulty in convincing people to join the group. Also, earlier, women would not even leave the house, but now they are running their own businesses.
One of the Board of Directors of the Company also a woman, Ms Muthurathinayam, explains how the women gained confidence over the years. Kulumai has a tie up with a company Neospark that prepares the organic feed for the cowsand the members can have their say on what the mix in the feed can be. Neospark also provides the feed at 50-60% lower rates to the company.
Now quality of milk has improved, there is no spoilage and the payments are on time.
As Ms Selvarani says, “Cows are our life-line now, if we have cows we can eat, otherwise we starve. The dairy farming has not just given livelihoods to us women, it has given us confidence to face other realities too in our lives.”
(MSSRF Pic: A milk collection centre )