Amul vs Nandini: Milk war erupts in poll-bound Karnataka

There's no competition but coexistence, says Amul's Mehta

To protest the entry of Amul, hotels in Bengaluru have decided to use only Nandini brand to 'support the state's (dairy) farmers'. Photo Indian Express

Amul’s plan to sell milk in Karnataka has triggered a political storm with opposition parties in the poll-bound state alleging that the Gujarat dairy giant’s entry, which they said is backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will pose a threat to the home-grown milk brand, Nandini, promoted by the Karnataka Cooperative Milk Producers’ Federation Limited (KMF). The state goes to polls on 10 May.

Nandini versus Amul

The milk war started with a tweet from Amul, which said it would start online delivery of milk in Bengaluru. The announcement did not go down well with those associated with the state’s formidable dairy brand, Nandini, which is associated with Kannadiga identity and pride. They saw it as an attempt to trample upon KMF, one of the largest dairy co-operatives in India, amid a narrative around its alleged merger with Amul.

In a recent tweet, Amul said, “A new wave of freshness with milk and curd is coming to Bengaluru. More information is coming soon. #LaunchAlert. From Kengeri to Whitefield, wishing everyone a Taaza day.”

The tweet came in the backdrop of a statement made by union home minister Amit Shah in Mandya on the ‘coming together’ of the two milk cooperatives. “Together, Amul and Nandini will help set up primary dairies in every village of Karnataka within three years,” Shah allegedly said, triggering a chain of reactions.

The ruling BJP in Karnataka later clarified that the statement did not mean a merger of the two cooperatives. Karnataka minister for cooperatives ST Somashekar said there was no proposal to merge KMF and Amul and hit out at the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) for turning the entry of Amul “into a political issue ahead of elections”.

Congress leader and former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah said, “All Kannadigas should pledge not to buy Amul products. All Kannadigas have to unanimously resist the usurpation of the KMF, which has been built for the welfare of the farmers of the country. All Kannadigas should pledge not to buy Amul products.”

The hashtags #GoBackAmul and #SaveNandini started trending on Twitter. One of the growing concerns among some sections of Kannadigas is that the entry of Amul in Karnataka will pose a threat to Nandini.

Price war

Business daily Mint reports the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), which markets Amul, may find it hard to get a foothold in Karnataka and take on the formidable KMF, which is the second largest dairy cooperative in the country and South India.

KMF’s milk under the Nandini brand is one of the cheapest in the country. A comparison shows that consumers purchasing one liter of toned milk have to pay ₹39 in Bengaluru whereas Amul sells one liter of toned milk for ₹52 in Gujarat and ₹54 in Delhi.

A liter of full cream milk costs ₹66 in Delhi and ₹64 in Gujarat while the Nandini brand full cream milk costs ₹24 for 450 ml and ₹50 for 900 ml. A kg of curd under the Nandini brand is available for ₹47 per kg whereas it costs around ₹67 per kg of curd under Amul. KMF can supply milk at a such low price as it gets subsidies from the government. The Karnataka government has given around ₹1,200 crore incentives annually, according to reports.

KMF has 16 milk unions in all the districts of the state, which procure milk from primary dairy cooperative societies and distribute it to consumers in various urban and rural markets in Karnataka.

Amid the controversy, Indian Express quoted GCMMF managing director Jayen Mehta as saying that the company’s entry into Karnataka’s dairy market is not to compete but to coexist with Nandini. “It is not about Amul versus Nandini but it is Amul and Nandini. Both are farmer-owned cooperatives working on similar interests. We are not here to compete with Nandini,” Mehta told the newspaper. According to Mehta, Amul sells 6000-8000 liters per day in Belgaum and Hubli, compared to Nandini, which sells 1.25-1.3 lakh liters per day.

Nandini’s influence

To protest the entry of Amul, hotels in Bengaluru have decided to use only Nandini brand to ‘support the state’s (dairy) farmers’. The Bruhat Bengaluru Hotels Association, without naming Amul, said Kannadigas should only promote Nandini milk products.

“We are all proud of Karnataka’s Nandini milk produced by our farmers and it should be encouraged. In our city, clean and delicious coffee stands as the backbone of snacks. And we encourage it with great pride. It has been heard that milk from other states is being shipped to Karnataka recently. We are all Nandini,” read a statement from Bruhat Bengaluru Hotels Association.


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