India, the world's largest milk producer, is planning to double its levels of milk production by 2027.
India, the world's largest producer of milk, plans to double its production on 2012 levels by 2027, in a move which would bring annual milk production levels in the country to roughly 280 billion litres.
This increase, which represents an annual growth rate of 5.9%, is required to keep pace with the predicted rise in Indian consumption of dairy products. Total consumption of dairy products in the last decade in India grew by almost 120%.
According to the Irish Farmers Journal dairy expert, Jack Kennedy, a push by the country to become practically self-sufficient in milk production is quite significant, given that most of India's milk production currently takes place on individual farms with only three or four cows, the majority of which are buffaloes.
Alongside the small scale of its dairy farms, India faces other challenges in achieving its 2027 production target including limited amount of fodder and the quality of concentrates.
Religious factors also prevent the efficient use of bovine by disallowing the culling of old or unproductive cows from the herd.
However, the National Dairy Plan in India aims to address these challenges in its 12 year plan by providing a better focus on breeding and nutrition as well as an improvement in the total dairy processing chain.
A spokesperson from Ornua, formerly the Irish Dairy Board, has said that if demand growth stays where it has been, even with this new plan, maintaining self-sufficiency will be a significant challenge.
"It is hard to see how they will be able to attain full self-sufficiency and then maintain it given how the demand for dairy consumption in India is growing," she said.
Referring to Ireland's minimal imports to the country, the spokesperson said that Indian government policy is to maintain dairy self-sufficiency for domestic consumption and the government puts "severe import levies on all dairy imports, normally 35% plus."
In contrast, China, one of Ireland's largest dairy importers, freely allows dairy imports with minimal duties, "0 to 10% depending on who has FTA's with China."
The agricultural lobby (millions of small farmers in rural India) is extraordinary powerful politically in India unlike China and the government will always protect their farmers and minimise imports of any agricultural products, the spokesperson added.
In past weeks India has seen a number of farmer suicides in rural areas and at public demonstrations over low pricing and severe farm income issues, which keeps the agricultural needs of the country very much to the fore of the political agenda.