Chittagong dairy farmers struggle for survival

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50% milk remains unsold; cash incentive demanded; DLO suggests include milk in relief

The ongoing long-holidays and countrywide lockdown, aimed to prevent the deadly coronavirus spread, hit Chittagong dairy farms hard and caused the farmers to struggle for survival.

Around 50% of their produced milk has remained unsold in the last couple of weeks, which brought huge loss for the farmers, said the Chittagong Divisional Dairy Farmers Association.

If the situation continues, the dairy sector of the whole country would run to ruin and destroyed, it fears. 

In such circumstance, the association sought the government support to save the industry, submitting a memorandum to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently. 

The dairy farmers’ association projected Tk1,287 crore loss till April 14, the last day of the government declared holidays, due to the unsold milk only in Chittagong.

It demanded a cash incentive for the sector on an urgent basis. Besides, the organization urged the government to extend bank loan repayment time without penalty, reschedule facility, and lowered bank interests.

Organizing Secretary of the Association Malik Mohammad Omar said that the dairy farmers are now going through a tough situation due to the countrywide shutdown.

“Other sectors such as poultry, fisheries, rearing cattle for fattening purpose, may survive in the lockdown situation somehow, but we cannot stop milking or feeding the dairy cows,” said Omar.

Moreover, the price of feed increased by at least 30%, which further intensified the burden, he added.

Omar said that it was almost impossible for a farmer to buy feed at the high price, bear workers’ wages, and run farms with the current little income. 

“We must get government support,” he said.

District Livestock Officer (DLO) in Chittagong Dr Md Reajul Huq said that they were worried about the 50% unsold milk produced in Chittagong amid the virus pandemic.

Reajul, however, said the crisis might mitigate if the government includes milk as an item in relief. 

“The government provides food assistance to the unprivileged people. Adding milk in the relief package will help people meet nutritional demand and also bring relief for the dairy farmers,” he added.

Mentioning that milk is a complete and rich food item, it will help people increase immunity to fight coronavirus.

“Besides, we can preserve milk by turning it into cheese or other items,” the livestock officer added.