Dairy farmers left with large stocks of unsold milk as country comes to a haltTraders said they were compelled to shut down their shops after people disregarded requests not to form crowds.
Dairy farmer Ganesh Pokhrel of Tilotama used to sell 150 litres of milk daily and he was a happy man. Then the lockdown hit, and his sales stopped. With life coming to a standstill across the entire country to stop possible spread of Covid-19, Pokhrel has nowhere to sell his milk.
Consumers too have stopped buying milk for fear of catching the infection. Most milk shops in Rupandehi have closed down which has created a problem for farmers.
According to Pokhrel, fewer people are coming to his home to buy milk. “If we make paneer from the milk, it does not last very long,” he said. Pokhrel used to sell the milk from his farm to a dairy in Butwal. “In this situation, I have no option but to dump the milk on the road,” he said.
Dairy traders in the district used to open for business for three hours in the morning and two hours in evening. Since Wednesday, they have shut down completely and will remain closed till March 31 due to increasing fears of infection, said Netra Pathak, president of the Rupandehi Dairy Traders Committee.
State-owned Dairy Development Corporation has also stopped collecting milk, making it hard to manage the milk collected from dairies in the district.
Pathak said they could do nothing except apologise to the farmers. The committee decided to close all shops after they started getting mobbed by customers due to the unavailability of milk in other places.
Yagya Murti Khanal, operator of Uma Devi Gai Farm, says he is facing a big problem after not being able to sell his milk. “What am I going to do with my daily output of 600 litres of milk?”
He has not been able to get feed for his cows too. Several dairies and milk companies used to buy his milk, now due to the fear of Covid-19, sales have fallen to zero.
As there is fear everywhere, Krishna Subedi, a resident of Kalika Nagar-11, Butwal has stopped going to buy milk. “Dairy shops are always crowded, and handling money is also risky,” she said. “So I decided not to purchase milk for some time.” She said she would not buy milk until the situation returns to normal.
Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, president of the Dairy Association of Province 5, says dairy traders are worried because of the large numbers of people gathering at the sales centre and handling currency notes.
“We were supplying milk understanding the needs of consumers,” he said. But the association was compelled to shut down the dairy shops after people disregarded requests not to form crowds.
The traders were asked to serve customers by wearing gloves and using hand sanitisers.
As it is impossible to set up a plant immediately to make use of the unsold milk, the association has requested farmers to make different products from the milk and sell them at a fair price.
Bhattarai said that arrangements were being made to sell different milk products by contacting consumers directly.
Bashudev Ghimire, head of Tilotama Municipality, said he understood the farmers’ problems, but he was not able to make any work plan immediately. “If traders and farmers come with an immediate plan for the management of the milk being produced by dairy farms, we are ready to help,” he said. Things will be a little more difficult for traders, he added.
Hira KC, head of Devdaha Municipality, said they had been trying to contact dairy plants in the country to solve the problem of farmers. “Managing vegetables can be done, but the distribution of milk is a big problem. We have been working to provide relief to milk producers.”