Published: 13/07/2011

The New Zealand Dairy Workers Union (NZDWU) national executive discussed and approved further support for the ongoing development of the Dairy Employees Federation of India (DEFOI) on June 9, 2011.

Since August 2007, the NZDWU joined the IUF in supporting the work of Indian dairy workers in organizing themselves under a single national organization of dairy workers. This resulted in the formation of Dairy Employees Federation of India (DEFOI), the first ever, national dairy workers organization in India) in September 2008 at a national meeting. DEFOI obtained legal registration in June 2009.

The Indian Dairy Sector
A major reason for such cooperation is that New Zealand and India are the leading milk producers in the world. The dairy industry in India produces 13% of the world’s milk products which makes India the largest producer of milk in the world. The Indian dairy industry is rapidly growing, trying to keep pace with the galloping demand around the world. However, according to the Chairperson of the India’s National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), “Demand for milk in the country is increasing at much faster rate than its production”. In order to meet the projected demand of 180 million tonnes of milk by 2021-22, milk production in the country has to grow by five million tonnes annually, double the present growth of 2.5 million tonnes per annum.

The traditional form of dairying developed in India is based on the model of rural households. There which are approx 70 million households with on average two cows fed on crop residue at the back of their homes producing milk for processing by dairy co-operative plants. This traditional form will now have to deal with the challenge of private sector dairies which authorities support to reach production, to lift productivity and drive modernisation. There will be larger dairy farms run by private sector, as well as larger milk processing plants in both the private and co-op sector. And there will be closures of the old and low capacity plants, which are operated by co-ops.

In the formal part of the dairy industry, there are 676 dairy plants in the Cooperative, Private and Government sectors registered with the Government of India and the state Governments, most of them being co-operative plants with relatively small capacity. By 2011 the share of private sector players will grow  to 24 million tonnes from 8.5 million tonnes in 2005. The share of government-managed milk co-operatives, meanwhile, will witness slower growth from 8.5 million tonnes in 2005 to 12 million tonnes in 2011.

Unlike the co-op sector, the private sector whose main concerns are productivity, food safety and environmental impact,  are not obliged to promote  societal objectives including rural development, food security (through making milk affordable) and poverty alleviation. The presence of private sector in dairy is relatively new as dairy was protected in the past resulting in the fact that the overwhelming majority of unionized dairy workers in milk processing plants are co-op employees.

The NZDWU/DEFOI project achievements
Since the foundation of DEFOI the outcomes of the activities fulfilled are as follows:
1. Prospective members of DEFOI identified and contacts maintained ;
2. Wage Comparison data in the Dairy Sector circulated ;
3. Key issues identified and discussed
4. A “Unity Declaration of Dairy Sector Unions” agreed and  issued 
5. Zonal workshops held 
6. Raising consciousness of problems of women dairy workers
7. News Letters issued for DEFOI members  

Bringing DEFOI members together across vast distances in India is costly and time consuming, but the forging of a common commitment to tackling issues seriously cannot be done without meetings that develop national coordination.

The 2nd national meeting of DEFOI in March 2011 agreed 5 key focus of work which will be the key focus for DEFOI work over the next two years:
1. The Uttar Pradesh Crisis
2. Precarious Employment (Contract Labour)
3. Growing DEFOI
4. State-wise activities to develop awareness and capacities
5. Gender Equality  

In order to tackle the challenges of the future work of DEFOI, NZDWU will support the project through providing expertise and resources. Further details of this work will be discussed in the upcoming meeting of IUF Dairy Division leadership group to be held in Hamilton, New Zealand on November 16-17, 2011 which will be hosted by NZDWU.