Milk income lures Kutch youths to ‘restock’ camels

RAJKOT: Camels have sailed back into the reckoning in the Gujarat milk industry as a viable option. The newfound “asset label” has been luring Kutch youths like Nagji Rabari (25), a resident of Kanmer village of Rapar taluka to invest in a fleet of 40 camels in the last two years — animals bought all the way from Dwarka and Jamnagar districts too.

But that was not so until five years ago, when camels literally proved to be ‘white elephants’ for breeders in the arid land.

Nagji, son of a camel breeder, who used to drive commercial vehicles, had sold off their livestock five years ago, frustrated by the abominably low income camel milk fetched them. But, magic happened in the milk and spurred by a ‘new white revolution’ of sorts, camel milk sold at Rs 50 per litre, started fetching them anything between Rs 40,000 and 1 lakh every month.

Good prices inspired Nagji, and many more like him, to invest into camels again. And many camel breeders of the nomad community purchased camels from Jamnagar, Patan and Rajasthan in the last one year. According to a rough estimate 170 camels were brought to Kutch in the last one year.

Price of one camel is between Rs 35,000 and Rs 50,000 depending on the milk producing capacity. “When my father sold milk, he earned a paltry Rs 10-15 per litre from restaurant owners. But after Sarhad dairy started bulk procurement, we get Rs 50 per litre, which is a very profitable profession at present.”

And so did Sura Rabari from Beru village of Nakhatrana, who too realised the possibility of a good income and invested in 40 camels from Patan four months ago. “Out of 40, we sold a few. Only 100 camels have been brought to Nakhatrana taluka from other parts,” he said.

“There are 18 youths who left other professions to join camel breeding after finding it lucrative. Even those who had sold off their fleet are now purchasing new milch camels,” said Mahendra Bhanani, camel programme coordinator of Sahjeevan, a voluntary organization.Some like Asha Rabrai of Daban village in Nakhatrana even sold off his cows to buy 15 camels recently.

Sarpanch of Gagan village,Hira Rabari, who himself brought 40 camels and sold 15, said, “We have a cooperative structure which should give us loans at low interest to buy camels.”

Meanwhile, India’s first co-operative society of camel breeders, which was formed a few years ago and now defunct, has been revived after milk started gaining local interest. The union created two milk collection centres and brought machinery to examine fat and other standards of the milk which it sells to Sarhad dairy. The dairy procures around 3,000 litres every day and pays Rs 51 per litre.

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