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February 2015 No Laughing Matter

Published on: 2015-02-28 00:00:00     1664 times read    0  Comments

--By Madan Lamsal

Nepal Government knows well how to milk the people. Whenever it wants to extract more from them, it raises the price of the commodities like milk.  As you may know, the milk pouches in Nepali market are not as easily available as do the liquor bottles. ‘The rarer the commodity, the higher the price,’ says one of the 'on the other hand' theories of economics. This justifies the recent exorbitant price hike of the milk by the government monopoly, Dairy Development Corporation (DDC).
 
One can easily see that nobody is in fact bothered by this hike.  Had it been the case of price rise of petroleum or transport fares, the university students would instantly come out to the streets in protest. But not against the price hike of the milk, because the younger folks nowadays is more concerned with the price of whisky than milk. And, if you believe in demand and supply theory of price, the hike seems absolutely natural. Every working age Nepali farmer has gone to milk camel in the Middle East selling his or her buffalos for goat prices. In turn, their young kids would demand some milk until they come of the age to drink liquor.  The fall of supply and rise in demand as such would naturally push prices higher and higher.
 
Beyond economics, it is important to gauge the effects of this price hike of the milk in overall social and behavioural aspects of the city consumers. The village consumers are not important here to consider since they don't drink milk at all. Those who do not or can’t produce milk would not have opportunity to consume, naturally. Those who produce it, sell it to the local collection centre and drink liquor instead from that income. This is a common story of milk farming since Nepal proudly embarked into the era of commercial farming, some three or four decades ago.
 
When milk becomes dearer than wine or whisky, no adult has incentive to waste money in milk. Everybody from ages knows that if you drink milk, it will take days for it to show slightest of effects, but if you choose to drink alcohol it shows effects within minutes. Therefore, the vendors at the road corner would prefer to sell liquor than milk. This is so also because the risk of loss by pouch burst is always high in the milk. Every old man comes back empty handed from the morning walk citing unavailability of milk in the market. Here, the law of close substitute will prevail.
 
So far, the GK of our younger generation regarding the source of milk was clear: the milk is given by the truck that comes early in the morning at that particular corner of the road. But, when milk gradually becomes an extinct commodity, it might give birth to a new legend of that magic truck like the story of Kamadhenu cow that our generation heard from our grandparents.
 
Some mothers of new-borns might worry about malnutrition of their babies. But, this in fact would force them to opt for scientifically proven better practice -- their own breast feeding. I can then argue that, the price hike of the milk is government's well-thought plan to encourage mothers for breastfeeding. Indirectly, this can also be a very effective population control tool. You don't need to be too cynical thinking that short supply of milk will kill more babies by malnutrition. In fact, when there is compulsion of breast-feeding in absence of pouched milk, many figure-conscious mothers will refrain from getting pregnant in fear of unavoidable breastfeeding after that. 
 
The fear of breast-feeding was one of the major reasons of the fall in population in each of the developed countries. The growing market of surrogate mothers in India and Africa is another offshoot of such a fear.
 
Now, we Nepali can rejoice on this simple yet very farsighted vision of Nepal government to make the country a developed nation. Every Nepali can now become development consultant to many other countries simply advising: increase the milk price if you want to have more than one positive effects in your economy. When government plans to milk its people it can do in such a marvellous way.

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