NEW DELHI, APRIL 11: After more than a year of negotiations, Russia has finally agreed to do away with a condition requiring Indian dairy companies to own captive cattle farms to export cheese to the country, making it easier for small companies and cooperatives, such as Amul, to qualify as exporters.

“The Russians have, however, stuck to their second condition, mandating dairy product exporters to collect milk directly from the farms and not from collection centres,” a government official told BusinessLine.

This means that all dairy companies, big and small, can now export hard cheese to Russia, even if they don’t own cattle, provided they send their own trucks to collect milk from the farms.

Technical issue

The Commerce Ministry has sought inputs from the Department of Animal Husbandry on the technical aspects of the proposed protocol drafted by Russia. “There are a lot of technical issues involved, such as certification on vaccination programmes and disease profile surveys, which are part of the protocol. We want the Animal Husbandry Department to confirm that such certificates can be issued by the government, following which we will sign it,” the official said.

India has been trying to get a share of Russia’s annual imports of food items, worth an estimated $40 billion, from Western countries after it banned import of most food products from the West in retaliation for sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.

Last year, Moscow agreed to start importing dairy products from India, but put in place the tough condition that only dairies owning 1,000 or more cattle would be allowed to export. The Russian government wanted the dairies to have a certificate from an authorised veterinarian for the industry specifying that the cattle had been properly vaccinated and free of foot-and-mouth disease, tuberculosis, brucellosis and leukaemia.

India argued that this would lead to the qualification of only two companies, as most others did not own farms.

“After several rounds of discussions, we finally managed to convince the Russians that veterinary certification was possible even if dairy item producers did not own cattle,” the official said.

On whether it would be possible for all companies to source directly from farms, the official said milk used to produce items for the Russian market could be sourced directly while the rest could be sourced from collection centres.