Dairy farmers of Balijuri Ghoshpara in Madarganj of Jamalpur dump their stale milk yesterday as dairy product companies could not collect milk from them due to the ongoing blockades and hartals. Photo: Star
More than one million consumers of three major metropolises have been suffering severely from milk scarcity for three weeks, as blockades and hartals have snapped the supply chain of the country's leading dairy producers.
This time, the people of Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet also had to suffer from scarcity of butter, ghee and powdered milk with children, senior citizens and ailing patients going without the much needed nutrition.
On a hartal or blockade day, at least half a million litres of milk go sour or sold at throwaway prices as the produce cannot be transported to the capital for pasteurisation and packaging, according to available data.
Since November, there had been 23 days of shutdowns which came as a huge blow to the supply and distribution chain of the dairy industry, said Mohammad Munir Chowdhury, managing director of the country's largest state-run cooperative dairy farm Milk Vita.
Milk Vita is capable of collecting around 2.5 lakh litres of milk a day from across the country. Apart from pasteurised milk, it also produces butter, ghee and powdered milk.
But for more than three weeks, its 30,000 retail outlets in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet have been going dry, as production came to a halt.
"We along with more than a million cooperative farmers and their dependents have suffered an aggregated loss of Tk 120 crore due to the 61 days of hartals and blockades since January," said Munir Chowdhury.
He said Milk Vita had failed to supply butter to the armed forces, and also to the luxurious hotels and renowned bakeries despite its high demand for the Christmas season.
On December 7, the state-run dairy farm procured and distributed 1.60 lakh litres of milk under police surveillance.
"I feed my two baby daughters Milk Vita liquid milk, but since mid-November all the outlets of our neighbourhood ran out of it," said Ahsan Kamal, a resident of Banani in the capital.
Nasrin Jahan Beena of Shajahanpur, Dhaka, said despite several attempts over the last couple of weeks, she could not manage liquid milk for her third-grader son during his annual exams.
Omar Aazm of College Road in Chittagong said, "We prefer Milk Vita liquid milk for our three daughters, especially for the youngest who is just three. But the product ran out in the market for the last two weeks."
Md Mosleh Uddin, general manager of another leading producer Brac Dairy, said they purchase 1.2 lakh litres of milk every day for an estimated half a million consumers.
"But just for a couple of days during blockades we could collect only 65,000 litres with the police escorting the tankers all the way," he said.
Kamruzzaman Kamal, marketing manager of Pran dairy, said they usually collect 1.2 lakh litres of milk daily but during blockades they could only collect one-third of the volume.
Executive Director (Marketing) of Akij Foods (Farm Fresh) Altaf Hossain said, "Our milk procurement and dairy production have drastically fallen due to the supply chain disruption."
Akij, on average, procures 40,000 litres of milk per day from Sirajganj, Pabna, Rajshahi and Kushtia, but the collection had declined almost to one-third of the volume, according to Altaf.
He said they could mobilise only a scanty amount of milk under police protection on a couple of days in the last three weeks.
The condition of Aftab Milk Products Ltd could not be known despite repeated attempts.