This Article is From Jun 15, 2023

Months After Amul vs Nandini, Milk War Brews Between Kerala, Karnataka

A response from the Karnataka cooperative minister and its milk federation chairman is awaited.

Karnataka's Nandini has opened several outlets in Kerala


A milk war is brewing between Karnataka and Kerala.

Left-ruled Kerala's milk federation has written to its Karnataka counterpart, urging it to reconsider its plans to step up sale of homegrown brand Nandini in Kerala. It has also sought an intervention by the National Dairy Development Board, in an attempt to protect its home brand Milma.

Karnataka's Nandini has opened several outlets in Kerala, including in Malappuram and Kochi, and is learnt to be exploring expansion plans. Milma is slightly cheaper in Kerala, with Nandini costing a couple of rupees more per litre. 

KS Mani, chairman of Kerala Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation, says Nandini's expansion plan in Kerala is against cooperative principles. Speaking to NDTV, Mr Mani said he first wrote to the Karnataka milk federation in December. The Kerala milk body has bought Nandini milk whenever there was a shortage at home. "I wrote that this is not correct, unethical. We are one of your biggest customers, you should not make us unhappy. Unfortunately, there was no reply or action from their side," he said.

Subsequently, he said, the Kerala milk federation issued press statements inviting applications for franchise, and informing about the opening of more outlets to sell Nandini.

The milk war between the two southern states, both currently ruled by Opposition parties, comes months after the Amul vs Nandini row in the run-up to the Karnataka elections.

The row had been triggered by Union Home Minister Amit Shah's statement that Gujarat and Karnataka can work together for the welfare of milk farmers in the country. The Congress, then in Opposition, and Janata Dal (Secular) alleged a conspiracy to finish off Nandini brand by pushing the Gujarat-based Amul in Karnataka. In the subsequent elections, the Congress came to power with a thumping win.

"When the Karnataka federation is objecting to the entry of Amul, they should not do the same thing in other states," Mr Mani said, adding that the national dairy board chairman has assured them that this matter will be discussed.

The Kerala federation head also said that the sale of Milma has been going up consistently and that the opening of Nandini outlets have not hit their business . "But this is not a question of sales. The question is of unethical practices. All of us are working for the welfare of the farmers. Be it the Karnataka federation or Amul or Milma, all of us are working under cooperative laws. Naturally, we will have to work within the area of the respective state, at least in terms of selling liquid milk," he said.

Kyathasandra N. Rajanna, the Minister of Cooperation in Karnataka, brushed off Kerala's objections, saying it is just competition and there is nothing "unethical" about it.

"This is a democratic country. A federation of states. So anybody can go anywhere and in the entire country they can sell. It is not unethical. It is competition. Competition is healthy," he told NDTV.

He also questioned if protectionism is to be upheld, why businesses from Kerala are coming to Karnataka.  

"They are also coming to Karnataka for product selling. So we are also going. They are opposing for marketing purpose... I can't speak on their opinion. It is their wish. If they want Nandini, they will purchase it. If they want some other brand, they will purchase it. It is left to the consumer," he added.