The ongoing countrywide lockdown has made things worse for the milk producers in Pabna and Sirajganj, who have already been suffering from poor sales due to a slump in local consumption.
In a bid to tame the alarming rate of coronavirus infections across Bangladesh, the government announced a seven-day lockdown that began on Monday.
During this period, restrictions on public movement will be enforced, making it difficult for local milk consumers to travel to the market as transportation facilities are limited.
Besides, even if milk production continues, the closure of sweetmeat shops and other businesses that use milk as a raw material has led to a slump in sales, the producers said.
If the lockdown is prolonged, marginal dairy farmers in the two major milk producing districts may face huge losses.
Md Khalilur Rahman, a marginal dairy farmer of Per-Faridpur village in Pabna’s Faridpur upazila, told The Daily Star that his farm produces 40 to 50 litres of milk every day.
He sells about 20 litres to the Pran collection centre while the remainder goes to local hotels and sweetmeat shops.
“But due to the lockdown, I am unable to find buyers for the remaining 20 litres after supplying Pran,” Rahman said.
Md Saiful Islam, president of the Per-Faridpur Milk Producer Cooperative Society, echoed the same.
“Since most of the shops and public transport have been shut, most local consumers are unable to visit the markets,” he said.
Moreover, the oversupply of milk has pulled down milk prices, causing another significant loss for the farmers, who have already been suffering from increased production costs due to the soaring prices of cattle feed, he said.
“So we urged the government to help the farmers ride out this crisis.”
According to local livestock officers, they have already taken measures to rescue the farmers.
“Since consumption may fall amid the lockdown, we asked processing factories to collect more milk from the farmers,” said Md Aktaruzzaman Bhuiyan, district livestock officer of Sirajganj.
The state-owned Baghabari Milk Vita factory, Bangladesh’s biggest dairy factory, is the main consumer of milk produced by marginal farmers in both Pabna and Sirajganj.
Other than Milk Vita, other major companies like Pran and Brac have established collection centres across the two districts, which collectively process around 20 lakh litres of milk daily.
The private companies consume about 50 per cent of the total daily production while the rest is sold at local markets both inside and outside the districts.
“Milk vita and other milk processing companies have continued production so there is no problem for the local farmers,” Md Abdulla Al Mamun, district livestock officer of Pabna, told The Daily Star.
Besides, the demand may increase in the upcoming Ramadan, he said.
Md Shariful Islam, in-charge of the Pran milk collection centre at Baghabari in Sirajganj’s Shahzadpur upazila, said they collect around 650 litres of milk from farmers every day.
“Our company continued normal production in the lockdown so we are buying milk from the farmers as usual,” he added.