India is home to one third of the world’s undernourished children. This persistent undernutrition has devastating effect on human development and economic growth in the country, resulting in economic losses of an estimated USD 2.5 billion annually. With over 50% of the population being vegetarian, milk is a key source of dietary protein and other essential nutrients and plays a key role in the mitigation of undernutrition.
India faces a significant gap between the demand for and supply of milk despite milk production contributing about 18% to agricultural GDP and being—by value—the single most important agricultural commodity. About 70% of the milk is produced by small, marginal and landless farmers keeping up to 3 adult dairy animals. Even households supplying private dairies have an average herd-size of only about 10 animals.
For 70 million rural households, 40% of whom are landless, milk production is an important part of their livelihoods. About 70% of labour in dairying is provided by women and engagement in dairying has been shown to provide pathways out of poverty. Improving the dairy sector in India will therefore benefit producers by providing livelihoods and consumers by providing milk at affordable prices.