what: AMUL (Anand Milk Union Limited) is the brand name of an Indian co-operative of small milk producers, the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF). Formed in 1946, its products are now widely sold both throughout India and abroad, making it one of the biggest dairy producers worldwide. GCMMF is now India's largest food products marketing organisation. Today, the GCMMF involves 12 district cooperative milk producers' unions (2.36 million of producers and 11,333 village societies), the total milk handling capacity reaches 6.9 million litres per day, and the daily average milk collection (2003-2004) was 4.97 million litres.
why: AMUL means ‘priceless’ in Sanskrit and its primary goal has been to build an economically strong Indian society through an innovative co-operative network, and to provide quality service and products to end-consumers and good returns to its farmer members. All their work is based on co-operative culture, co-operative networking, market acumen and respect for both producer and the consumer.
how: the core of the project is the village milk co-operative. According to the Anand Pattern, a village co-operative society of primary producers is formed under the guidance of the Co-operative Dairy Union (district level Co-operative owning the processing plant). A milk producer becomes a member by paying a nominal entrance fee. He must then agree to sell milk only to the society. The members elect a managing committee headed by a chairman. This committee is responsible for the recruitment of staff that is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the society. Each society has a milk collection centre to which the farmers take their milk in the morning and evening.
before: traditional private milk traders were dominant in the area. The private traders monopolised the milk market and the smaller producers, the local farmers, were kept out of it.
after: with AMUL things changed a lot… Local farmers once again found a reason to work and to be part of the market. Information technology was encouraged at the village level so that milk collection efficiency could be optimised and milk production services could be enhanced. The awesome network of organisation and logistics begins when the raw milk is collected from villagers and village societies. Then the milk is tested according to established standards and sent to the dairy for further processing. The milk is tested again in a dairy lab, then pasteurised, clarified and standardised with the latest technological machinery and equipment. After pasteurisation and clarification, the milk is distributed to the market for sale.
sustainability: in India in general, there is a lot of interest in alternative agriculture and its link with integrated resources management and social sustainability. Social businesses based on models of micro credit, self-help and stakeholder-centred management have grown to become large and successful businesses promoting stakeholders interests.
Co-operatives like AMUL enhance the true spirit of a fair trading system: it illustrates how the decentralisation of management has promoted empowerment and the participation of the poor. In addition, they are also capable of addressing the food and livelihood security issues effectively. Rural communities can be engaged optimally through skill development and providing employment opportunities in their villages, thereby restricting urban migration, preventing urban slum and reducing poverty conditions.
The farmer-owned AMUL Co-operative has become a model for the dairy development projects in the developing countries. This model showed that an integrated approach along co-operative lines could enhance production, procurement, processing and marketing of milk. Based on AMUL’s success story, in 1970 the Government of India launched “Operation Flood” in other states of India. The purpose was to provide a regularised and standardised link between the rural milk supply centres and the urban demand centres.
the whole story: interesting? If you want to find out more about AMUL’s story, there is a book written by Ruth Heredia. “The AMUL India Story” is a stimulating excursion into a dream that is now reality. A fast-paced narrative laced with many fascinating anecdotes, the book chronicles the daring initiatives and dynamism displayed by a team of committed individuals. This is a story of faith, empowerment, and the realisation of a dream, together with all the elements that make a story interesting - passion, humour and the thrill of anticipation...