Indian farmer leaders say they will oppose any agreement with Australia that might reduce milk price in India.
Bhartiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait says Indian farmers will oppose the so-called ‘milk agreement’ with Australia.
“Australia is on the threshold of signing an agreement with India next month to supply milk at 20-22 rupees (0.35 AUD) per litre. India’s decision to import milk poses an existential threat to India’s cattle owners. Farmers will oppose it,” Tikait tweeted.
India and Australia have been in negotiations since October last year for concluding a “full” Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) by the end of 2022, but both sides have fast-tracked the process to secure an interim agreement before that.
Tikait’s Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) has said that the Indian farmers will oppose the CECA if it throws open the country’s dairy sector for Australian dairy majors.
The Australian Government has awarded Dairy Australia a $76,400 grant under the Agricultural Trade and Market Access Cooperation (ATMAC) program “to build a long-term engagement plan with Indian dairy sector counterparts.”
Australian dairy farmers are hoping to milk the benefits from the growing Consumer demand in India for dairy milk products which is expected to outpace supply until 2035. Experts believe there will also be enormous demand for value-added milk products.
“The ATMAC project will support long-term strategic engagement between the Australian and Indian dairy sectors to explore ways to improve collaboration and identify mutually beneficial opportunities,” said Dairy Australia in a statement.
“The project is taking a long-term focus and aims to position Australian dairy farmers, processors and supply chains are preferred partners for their Indian counterparts into the future,” it said.
Dairy Australia Managing Director David Nation said that the agreement will provide long term opportunities for the industry.
Coal and dairy are expected to form important components of the India-Australia trade deal. Industry sources say Australia will make an attractive offer as a quid pro quo if India opens up the dairy sector.
Australia and India have maintained that both sides are “committed to deepening” their trade relationship under the bilateral Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP). Earlier, the interim ‘early harvest’ agreement was expected to be sealed by December 2021. Now, government sources say it is likely to be signed by February 2022.
“Dairy Australia recognises the importance of long term partnerships in trade that include both Government and industry support. The ATMAC project is timely to help focus Australian dairy businesses on possible areas for cooperation and relationships.
“Joint activities are supporting trade to India, with comprehensive research into the Indian dairy market to gain an understanding of India’s supply chain, state of the industry, key stakeholders and consumer behaviours.
“Australian industry participants are much better informed of Indian production systems and the market, and the project will support a series of senior level meetings with key Indian dairy industry stakeholders,” Mr Nation said.