Dairy farmers in Bhangura upazila of Pabna today staged a demonstration over four companies’ suspension of procuring milk from them following a High Court order.
Thousands of farmers staged the protest at Bhangura Bus Stand area in the upazila from 11:00am to 2:00pm and at one stage poured their milk on the road, reports our Pabna correspondent.
The HC yesterday ordered the authorities to stop production, distribution and sale of pasteurised milk of 14 companies for the next five weeks.
The HC gave the order after examining three separate laboratory test reports, which found that the milk of these companies contains antibiotics -- Oxytetracycline, Tetracycline and Ciprofloxacin -- as well as lead, a harmful heavy metal.
Among the 14 companies, which are all registered under the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI), four companies – Akij Food and Beverage Ltd (Farm Fresh Milk), Bangladesh Milk Producers’ Cooperative Limited (Milk Vita), BRAC Dairy and Food Project (Aarong Dairy), and Pran Dairy Ltd (Pran Milk) – procure milk from the producers in the upazila.
Around 1,400 dairy farmers in the upazila supply around 65 thousand litres of milk to the four companies, said Harunur Rashdi, coordinator of the dairy farmers’ association in Patharghata village of the upazila.
“We sell the milk to the four companies which operate here. This is our livelihood. Now the companies have halted procuring milk from us following the HC order. How are we going to live now?” Rashid said.
“Since the HC ordered a suspension on our milk production, sale and distribution for five weeks in its order yesterday, we have halted procuring milk from the farmers for the time being until the court lifts the suspension,” said Md Ashrafuzzaman, in charge of Bhangura collection unit of Milk Vita.
Over 3 lakh litres of milk is produced in five upazilas of Pabna and Sirajganj district, country’s one of the biggest milk hub. Milk Vita, the key buyer of the milk, collects over 2 lakh litres of the milk produced in the region while the three other dairy companies buy the rest of the milk.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court today cleared the way for Bangladesh Milk Producers’ Co-operative Union Limited (Milk Vita), a state-sponsored cooperative, to produce, distribute and sale of pasteurised milk.
Chamber Judge of the Supreme Court Justice Md Nuruzzaman stayed for eight weeks a part of the High Court order that directed Milk Vita to stop production, distribution and sale of pasteurised milk for five weeks.
The apex court chamber judge passed the order following a petition filed by Milk Vita challenging the High Court order that directed the authorities to stop production, distribution and sale of pasteurised milk of 14 companies for the next five weeks.
However, the SC stay on the HC order would not be applicable for the 13 other dairy companies.
Milk Vita collects milk from 100,000 farmers across the country.
Representatives of dairy farmers and some processors said the HC rule would hurt dairy farmers, who depend largely on selling their produce to milk companies.
Milk processing companies collect more than 8 lakh litres of milk daily from nearly 200,000 farmers in dairy farming zones in the north.
Domestic milk production is growing gradually on the back of increased farming.
The overall production rose by 6 percent year-on-year to 99 lakh tonnes in fiscal 2018-19 from 94 lakh tonnes a year ago, according to the livestock department.
In addition, more than 125,000 tonnes of milk powder are imported annually to meet household and industrial demand, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) data.