Amul is an Indian company - the information portal on South Asia

"Amul" is written in large letters on a purple background on the wide stone base between the everyday Pravin shop and the Schiwa temple on the outskirts of Anand in the heart of the West Indian Union state of Gujarat. "Real Milk - Real Ice Cream" can be read under the company logo. But ice cream sticks from the freezer are by no means the only Amul product that Pravin can offer. He takes out milk cartons and points to chocolate bars. The next shop with Amul advertising is only a stone's throw away and so it is in large parts of India up to the foothills of the Himalayas.

Amul - more precisely the National Diary Development Board (NDDB) - is by far the largest Indian milk producer. And that is by no means the only superlative with which the company can adorn itself. The national development company for the dairy industry is one of the largest cooperatives in the world and at the same time probably the world's largest development project. The entrance area to the Amul headquarters only 100 meters from Pravin's shop gives an idea of ​​something special. Behind the gate, which is guarded day and night by three security guards, the fountains of a fountain shoot into the sky, behind it architecturally diverse buildings amid well-tended lawns, tall bougainvilleas, plane trees and palm trees. In short, a wonderland in dusty India, which is now heavily plagued by drought.

Breakthrough with "Operation Flood"

The veterinarian Dr. Amrita Patel, who has been the head of the super-cooperative with 11 million members in 21 Indian Union states and no fewer than 170 dairies for several years, introduces us to the beginnings of the unparalleled company. Shortly before India's independence, she reports, milk producers formed two small cooperatives just a few kilometers away at the other end of Anand in order to avoid exploitation by middlemen and to market the milk themselves.

The project was sponsored by Sardar Patel, the leading congress politician from the area alongside Nehru and Gandhi from the founding time of the Indian Union - the "Iron Men" who, as the powerful interior minister, welded India together against the resistance of individual princes, is very close large memorial temple dedicated. In 1965, the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri raised the "Anand Model" for India, for example, and promoted its spread across the country. The breakthrough came after 1970, when Anand, with the support of the EU and the World Bank, initiated "Operation Flood" - a flood of milk for India's large and small metropolises. When the operation was completed in 1996, the cooperative was the undisputed leader of domestic milk suppliers and India soon overtook the USA as the world's largest milk producer. Today, the South Asian country is number one with over 84 million tons per year. Over 17 million liters of milk are delivered to the Anander Cooperative's collection points every day, more than 13 million of which reach the market. The rest is processed into a respectable number of dairy products.

The almost 30-year-old Kokila Bin, one of the 11 million Amul members, milked her two buffalos that evening at around 5:30 pm and made her way to the collection point of the Navali Milk Producers Cooperative Society with her milk can. Navali is a community of 6,000 people a few kilometers outside of Anand, and the local cooperative is one of more than 100,000 in the whole country (India has around 550,000 villages). When Kokila Bin arrives at the collection point, it is already getting dark. But the two-story building cannot be missed - apart from the Hindu temple, it towers over everything else on the market square of Navali.

From a distance Kokila can already see the queue of members of the cooperative in front of the collection point. In just under ten minutes the time has come - the buffalo farmer pours the milk into a large stainless steel tub. The amount and fat content are determined by computer after she has entered her chip card. The facts of the evening come to light on a small receipt: This time it is 2.9 liters of buffalo milk, the fat content is 5.8 percent, and for this she is credited with 27 rupees (around 60 cents). She can pick up the money the next morning when she comes to the collection point again.

Like Kokila and her husband, most of the 11 million Amul cooperative members only maintain one to three cattle. Many of them, but by no means all, own a small piece of land, usually only one or two acres (1 acre = 0.47 hectares). Of the 932 members of the Navali cooperative, 460 are landless, 415 own land up to two hectares, 57 more.

The competitors are also called Nestlé and Danone

Kokila's family - they also have two sons and a daughter - have no shelter of their own. She earns her livelihood plus school fees for the children largely with the income from milk sales, around 1,500 rupees a month. Plus income from the parents' wage labor. Even without a great deal of arithmetic, it quickly becomes clear: Without the daily income from the cooperative, at the end of the year there is also a cooperative bonus, this Indian family - just like the other 60 percent of Dr. Patel classified as "poor, marginalized" Amul members - barely survive.

The Navali cooperative also offers a range of social benefits. Out of the roughly 213,000 rupees social spending, 44,000 rupees stand out for milk for the local kindergarten as well as grants for teacher's housing, electrification and family planning - social issues to which Amrita Patel and the Amul establishment are still committed.

But in the last few years, in which the harsh winds of globalization also reached India, which had been shielded for a long time, the external conditions for the super-cooperative controlled from Anand have changed significantly. First of all - in the wake of the regulations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) - the lifting of all restrictions on private dairy companies, which, according to the Amul people, generally do not involve micro-producers and do not assume any social obligations. International corporations such as Nestlé, Danone or Brittannia now also have greater opportunities for expansion in the number one milk-drinking country. Although the head of Nestlé India, Carlo M. Donati, spoke to German journalists in Delhi with considerable problems with a possible expansion to "Amul- Territory ", his group is also pushing its expansion far beyond the Punjab granary, where Nestlé has been operating since 1961.

However, the Amul management is more concerned about the unequal conditions legitimized by the WTO for industrialized and developing countries in world trade in dairy products. Anand is angry that the industrialized countries can produce and export extremely cheaply through their subsidy policy - no less than 39 billion dollars flowed into the pockets of milk producers in 2001, according to the Anander annual report 2001/2002. At the same time, India had given up all its protective measures such as quantitative import restrictions and tariffs as early as 1995 under pressure from the WTO and IMF. This means that practically the limits are open to foreign dumping offers. At the same time, however, the industrialized countries would continue to seal themselves off from competition from the south.

Does the EU want to ruin the former pupil?

In this regard, the large Indian cooperative also has considerable problems with the EU - although a lively Anander brochure with the title "A Saga of Successful Partnership" praises the development policy commitment of the Europeans in the context of "Operation Flood" about the green clover. At that time, the EU had supplied Amul with milk powder and butter oil free of charge from its surpluses, and the proceeds were used to stretch that wide network of cooperatives across India.

However, the first cracks soon appeared in the partnership. "When we then generated and wanted to export large surpluses, the EU forbade us to do so," recalls Dr. Patel. There have been no aid deliveries from Brussels since 1997 - but instead, albeit to a lesser extent, subsidized milk powder and butter oil. Does the EU want to ruin the development project that it was instrumental in creating? One thing is clear: from now on - also a consequence of globalization - both face each other on the world market. And it is also clear: under fair conditions, i.e. a clear reduction in EU subsidies and access restrictions, Amul would also have a chance in Europe. The cooperative currently exports mainly to the Gulf region, in total to around a dozen countries.

"If the EU states or other industrialized countries throw heavily subsidized dairy products on the Indian market in large quantities," sums up Narendra Varshney, economic director at Anander headquarters, "less will be produced here and the living conditions of millions of small producers would be impaired - that is, you would be thrown far back on their arduous journey out of poverty. "

Kokila Bin from the village of Navali, owner of two buffalo cows whose milk guarantees the survival of her family, knows nothing (yet) about these strange connections.


Source: This article was published on January 14, 2003 in the daily newspaper "Neues Deutschland".