By Lindi Botha
India is soon to be the most populous country in the world, reaching over 1,5 billion people. Considering the scale makes it a little easier to put the sheer size of their agricultural sector and agricultural media into perspective. Coordinating such masses to produce and distribute almost hourly agri news however, remains impressive and was a joy to behold during a recent trip to Delhi.
The IFAJ was invited to attend the International Dairy Federation’s (IDF) World Dairy Summit in Delhi in September. Elida Thiery from Argentina, IFAJ president Lena Johansson from Sweden, and myself from South Africa jumped at the opportunity. Draped in flowers–nearly daily–and being received with so much warmth and hospitality made a big impression on all of us.
The IDF represents the global dairy sector and coordinates expertise and scientific information within the sector. At the Summit, researchers from around the world presented their latest research and innovations that will help make the industry more sustainable, reach its target of net zero emissions, and ensure that consumers are properly informed about the value of dairy in a healthy, balanced diet. While much of the developed world is engaged in conversations about plant-based dairy replacements, on a global level the industry is on the up. Dairy consumption is expected to rise, mostly driven by rising incomes and population growth in developing countries. Rabobank estimates that within a decade, there will be a milk deficit of 20 million tonnes, providing much opportunity for dairy industries to expand.
India itself has fast-tracked dairy production over the last 30 years and during the Summit we got a first-hand look at the magnitude of the Indian dairy industry. India is both the largest producers of milk worldwide and the largest consumer. What is fascinating is that the milk supply hinges on small scale dairy farmers, some owning just one or two cows. These nearly one billion farmers are coordinated in such a way that they can deliver just a few litres each day to a central point, where the milk is ultimately pooled together with farmers from the rest of the country. It is then processed and redistributed so that every Indian has easy access to milk, be it from a vending machine down the road from their home or doorstep deliveries. Elida, Lena and I had the opportunity to meet some of these farmers during the tours provided by the IDF. For especially the women, the milk they sell from the cow in the backyard is the only income they are able to generate, and has led to the financial independence of many women.
India also actively promotes dairy consumption in all its forms, and it was astounding to see the wide variety of products they have available:
- sweet, milky iced coffees in flavours ranging from star anise, masala and almond;
- yogurt based lassis in pistachio, mango, and my favourite, coriander, ginger and chilli flavours
- milkshakes, ice creams, paneer and kefir – they have it all.
The IDF World Dairy Summit truly provided the kind of opportunity that ticked every box for my agri-wanderlust: food for the brain, heart and body!
After the Summit, we were hosted by the team at Krishi Jagran, the world’s largest agricultural media outlet, who answered hundreds of our questions about both agriculture and media, and gave us a true taste of Delhi.
We were fortunate to be able to meet the staff at their head office, which although was already far larger than what I am used to seeing in an agri newsroom, turned out to be only a fraction of their total staff. Serving nearly a billion farmers in 22 languages across the continent takes a vast network of reporters scattered across the provinces.
What was especially impressive was the scale of their network: magazines, online news, social media and even their own YouTube channel are used to get the stories out. The staff contingent, at nearly 250, is also noticeably youthful, with most staff seemingly under the age of 30. It was really encouraging to see so many young people interested in this beat, especially since there are so many other supposedly glamourous subjects to lure the youth. But as one journalist, who left the glitz of Bollywood reporting to join Krishi Jagran put it, he now feels like his life has purpose. Without agriculture, no one can live, and by working in this industry, he knows he is working for the greater good.
Part of the success in how they serve such a large network lies in their farmer-journalist training programme. They are constantly training farmers to be reporters so that real-time news can be fed into the media network as it takes place on farm level. This is just one example of the Indian people’s ingenuity. Problems are only opportunities waiting to be discovered and we all marvelled at the way in which the Indians just get on with their business, not allowing any obstacles to get in their way.
India has submitted their application to become members of the IFAJ and we hope to welcome them into the agri media family soon.
India was impressive in so many ways but most of all for their people. The kindness, humility and sincerity we were shown will forever remain with me. Despite some of the most horrendous traffic and driving I’ve ever witnessed, there is no road rage. Patience reigns in crowded queues, and a smile and a wiggle of the head is given whenever you make eye contact. We were welcomed with flower garlands, fed the most aromatic curry, brewed the best tea and treated to home made burfi wrapped in silver petals. If an opportunity to visit India ever arises, grab it with both hands!