Propelling livestock production into ‘mission mode’ would be one of the keys for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in achieving his ambitious target of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2024. After brainstorming serial meetings with livestock experts, top veterinary scientists and key officials of the Animal Husbandry and Dairying Ministry, Modi has launched three game-changing schemes which can turn around the growth story of millions of livestock farmers in India. The Government estimates that in the next five years, livestock farmers will not only save losses worth Rs 2.50 lakh crore, but will increase their income four times, contributing a major share in India’s GDP.
On boosting the Indian economy through significant increase in livestock production, Atul Chaturvedi, Secretary, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying told IANS: “The government’s determination to increase livestock production will certainly improve the economy in a big way. The three schemes launched by the Centre are unprecedented in scale. At the moment, we are carrying a mammoth exercise to assess the expected contribution of livestock production in the economy.”
One of the most senior IAS officers in the Modi government, Chaturvedi said that extraordinary efforts are being made to implement some of the biggest schemes (in the animal husbandry sector) in the world. “We are hopeful that it would lead to a fourfold increase in farmers’ income by 2024,” said Chaturvedi, a zoologist-turned-bureaucrat, who was earlier holding a key position in the Union Ministry of Commerce.
How focused the Modi government is on the livestock production is evident from its very first cabinet meeting. A source in the PMO revealed that soon after taking oath as Prime Minister for the second term, Modi presided over meetings related to animal husbandry issues. Subsequently, the very first decision of Modi’s first cabinet meeting was approval of a Rs 13,000 crore scheme for the benefit of livestock farmers.
“By 2017-18, Prime Minister Modi (in his first term) had decided to push the animal husbandry and dairy (sector) into mission mode because he realised that growth in this sector is over 6 per cent whereas the yearly growth in the agriculture sector is just half, at a meagre 3 per cent. The government was convinced that if livestock production is stimulated, the growth in animal husbandry and dairy could be raised up to 12 to 15 per cent, heralding a revolution in the agriculture market,” said a key official, implementing vaccination of bovines across the country.
Another area of concern for PM Modi has been very low dairy exports. Despite being the world’s largest milk producer, India could never break into the list of top 15 milk and dairy exporting countries. The main reason for this was that India’s major bovine population was affected by several diseases including the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).
The high sanitation norms and health parameters in western countries rejected import of Indian milk and dairy products. The situation was similar in other livestock products. Besides, the average yearly production of milk per cow was not even one fourth. Government data reveals an Indian cow’s average yearly milk production is around 2,000 kg while in the US, the figure crosses the 10,000 kg mark. In Israel, the average yearly milk production by a single cow is nearly 12,000 kg which raises questions about the very low milk yield per cow in India.
On issues which hinder the growth of livestock production in the country, Chaturvedi identified three key problems were the biggest barriers for farmers for yielding less profit.
“Prevailing diseases in farm animals, poor nutrition value (of fodder provided to them) and low quality of breeding are the main reasons behind sluggish growth. The government is addressing all these problems. For instance, a large force of volunteers will undertake the world’s biggest-ever vaccination drive by injecting 1,056 million doses every year. The result would definitely free Indian bovines from FMD, resulting in wide acceptance of Indian milk and dairy products across the world,” said Chaturvedi, a 1986 batch IAS officer of Assam and Meghalaya cadre.
Recently, when PM Modi launched a cattle vaccination programme in Mathura, he also laid emphasis on developing best breeds in livestock. A much better breed of cattle would enable the farmers to pocket six-to-eight times more profit than what they are usually earning now. India has also hired the services of two American companies, considered to be the most advanced in artificial insemination technology to produce healthier livestock. The farmers would now have a choice of breeding only cows rather than bulls. The new technology of insemination provides sex-sorted semen wherein the farmers can ensure that only female calves are born. The inseminated cows using semen of genetically superior bulls can also ensure increased milk production and better fertility.
Policy makers in the government’s think tank, Niti Aayog, are also hopeful that by increasing livestock production in quality and quantity, rural India can contribute to India’s GDP in a significant way.
According to a Niti Aayog official, animal husbandry and dairying can reap profits up to ten times more when compared with agriculture production by and large limited to kharif or rabi crops.