Indian Dairy Farmers Block U.S./India Trade Deal
India’s farmers “will never allow” a U.S./India trade agreement, no matter how limited, if it opens the Indian dairy market to U.S. imports, reports the Al Jazeera news service.
India and the United States have been negotiating a trade deal since 2018 with dairy issues blocking final agreement. India's millions of dairy farmers make up a powerful voting bloc, and local politicians cross them at their peril.
R.S. Sodhi, managing director of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, says India will become a milk surplus nation in about decade. “Why do we need [dairy] imports that will destroy the livelihood of 100 million people? It’s not just trade, it’s about their lives.”
Tens of millions of people, mostly small farmers (many of them women) with a just a few cows, make up India’s dairy industry. They make up a large portion of the rural population, and loss of their livelihood could strain local economies and force migration to already strained urban centers.
These small farms make up more than 70% of India’s $110 billion dairy industry. Indian farmers earn about two-thirds of their annual income from dairying.
The Indian dairy industry also worries that it would be forced to follow more stringent sanitation guidelines if it opened its market to foreign imports.
Dairy exporting nations, such as the United States, the European Union, New Zealand and Australia, view India as a potential market with a middle class that numbers some 300 to 350 million.