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India may need some dairy imports despite improving stocks, says official

Milk prices in the world's biggest producer have risen at their fastest price in a decade to a record high as lumpy skin disease and the Covid-19 pandemic slowed dairy breeding.

Reuters
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A herder milking his camel in Grandhi village of Rajasthan, India Jan 14. Photo: Reuters
A herder milking his camel in Grandhi village of Rajasthan, India Jan 14. Photo: Reuters

India's stockpiles of dairy products have recovered in the past two months, though some products could qualify for duty free imports during peak demand season, a senior government official said on Wednesday.

Milk prices in the world's biggest producer have risen at their fastest price in a decade to a record high as lumpy skin disease and the Covid-19 pandemic slowed dairy breeding.

"There is adequate inventory of skimmed milk powder (SMP)," said Rajesh Kumar Singh, secretary at the department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying.

SMP stocks reached 109,000 tonnes in February, up by nearly 27,000 tonnes from December, ministry data shows.

"But in the case of dairy products, especially fats, butter and ghee, etc, the stocks are lower than the previous year," Singh said.

Butter and ghee stocks have fell to 36,000 tonnes in February, down from 75,000 tonnes a year earlier.

"Imports will be allowed only if needed. Imports do not help farmers, they help consumers," he said.

Dairy remains a key source of calcium, vitamins and protein for a largely vegetarian population.

There has been stagnation in milk production this year while demand has risen by 8-10%, Singh said, adding that milk production in some states has been increasing in the past few weeks as temperatures have dropped during recent rains.

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