Big companies like Pran, Aarong Dairy and Milk Vita source their milk from Satkhira district
With an annual milk production of 1.9 lakh tonnes, roughly 2 percent of the total demand of the country, Satkhira is a mega hub for milk production.
However, one area in the district has become its biggest milk producer – Ghoshpara in Jeyala village, Tala upazila.
Dairy magnate Dibash Chandra Ghosh, president of the Milk Producers' Association in Tala upazila and a key member of the locally influential Ghosh family, told The Business Standard that he makes Tk5,000 every day by selling the milk from his farm.
Dibash has 21 cows that give 300 litres of milk every day, worth Tk11,000. Selling each litre for Tk37, he has a 45 percent profit margin.
"The business goes back to the days of my ancestors. But it turned big only nine years ago," he said.
According to Dibash, there are 120 dairy farmers in Ghoshpara and about 420 in Jeyala village. A rise in milk production has inspired many unemployed youths in Tala upazila to enter the dairy business.
"The dairy sector has single-handedly transformed the once-impoverished Ghoshpara and its surrounding areas," Dibash added.
Ghoshpara not only helps dairy farmers in the area, but also those in other parts of Jeyala village and even some nearby villages in Tala upazila.
The Ghosh family also works as the only dairy middleman in the area and not everyone agrees with its business tactics.
Al-Amin Sardar, a dairy farmer from Atari village of Tala upazila said farmers from a number of villages in the upazila have to sell their products to city markets through the Ghosh family.
He claimed the Ghosh family, along with a host of other problems, is negatively affecting the dairy sector in the region.
Al-Amin sells milk at Tk32 per litre. But due to the influential Ghosh family, it becomes Tk35 per litre when the big dairy companies buy milk for their consumers in Dhaka, Khulna and Barishal.
The dairy farmer further alleged that the Ghosh family deprives them of bigger profit margins by acting as an intermediary. The price reaches Tk60-80 per litre when they reach the end-users, he added, pointing out further tampering along the supply chain.
"Farmers like me have raised the issue many times in different local meetings, but to no avail," Al-Amin said.
Al-amin started his farm with only two cows bought at Tk55,000 and Tk85,000. Now he makes Tk1,000-Tk1,200 in profits by selling at least a 100 litres of milk every day.
He now owns 30 cows, 10 of which provide milk.
"The middlemen do constrict profits. Yet, having conquered financial crisis, I am now independent," Al-amin said.
Every day, 30,000 litres of milk or one-fifth of the production in entire Tala upazila is collected from Jeyala and some nearby villages. The milk is sold by the Ghosh family to bigger farms. Ghoshpara alone produces 20,000 litres of milk worth Tk7.5 lakh at its farms.
Led by the Ghoshpara community, Jeyala village is the biggest milk contributor in Tala upazila, which in turn supplies one-third of the total milk produced in Satkhira.
Satkhira District Livestock Officer Dr Mohammad Shahidul Islam said that milk from the district is sold to different parts of the country, including the capital Dhaka. Big companies like Pran, Aarong Dairy and Milk Vita source their milk from the district.
There are 2,500 dairy farmers and farms in the district. The government provides them with technological and medical assistance alongside training on livestock care.
The government initiated the Livestock and Development Project on December 12, he said, referring to the demands from individual dairy farmers for direct market access. After registering under the project, farmers can sell their milk the way that best suits their interests.
"As per the project, the government would support the farmers for marketing and producing their milk in their preferred ways while also facilitating financial and other relevant support," Shahidul added.
However, local dairy farmers in Ghoshpara said more support in the form of a medical treatment camp for animals and subsidies on animal feeds can go a long way.
At present, farmers have to trek long distances to seek treatment for their livestock. A medical camp right in Ghoshpara can reduce the trouble and production costs.
Furthermore, subsidies on animal feed can attract more jobless youth in the area to the sector, local farmers added.