Agriculture along with animal husbandry has been and will continue to be the lifeline of Indian economy. India is the largest and one of the most economical milk producers in the world (estimated production of 105 MT).It is the most important sector of the Indian economy particularly in poverty alleviation and employment generation. This sector contributes close to one-fourth of India’s National income and total work force engaged in agriculture is about 60 per cent.
At global level, milk has been identified as an integral part of food for centuries. The success of White Revolution in India has largely been written by millions of small holders. About 70 million dairy farmers produce more than 50 per cent of the milk in the country. Milk and milk products are one of the important components of the Indian food industry. Consumption of milk and milk products is deeply rooted in our tradition and it is an essential item during rituals, festivals and other auspicious events.
Dairy market in India is quite huge and according to an estimate the unorganized milk and milk product market is about Rs 470 billion while the market for processed organized dairy segment is only Rs 10000 crores. The market is currently growing at round 5% pa in volume terms. There is an impressive level of processing i.e. 22% in organized sector. The dairy exports in 2007–08 rose to US$ 210.5 million against US$ 113.57 last fiscal, whereas the domestic dairy sector is slated to cross US$ 108 billion in revenues by 2011. India with its population of more than 1 billion and diverse food habits, cultures, tradition and religions, offer great market for milk and milk products. Milk products with well defined quality characteristics and packaged in attractive containers can be marketed at different places. Most dairy food delicacies are value added products generating high profits. The milk products produced include curd, ghee, khoa, chhana, paneer, shrikhand , milk powder, whitener ,condensed milk, malted milk food, ice cream and a variety of milk sweets, some of which are now produce d by the organized dairy industries as well, are major value added products from the Indian dairy sector. The market for traditional dairy products in India is estimated to be US $ 10 billion, being the largest and fastest growing segment of the Indian dairy industry.
Major players in the dairy sector with dairy products include Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) and Nestle are the largest player. Other include Milkfood Limited, SmithKline Beecham Limited, Indodan Industries Limited, H.J. Heinz Limited, Britannia, Cadbury, etc.All other local dairy cooperatives have their local brands (For e.g. Gokul, Warana in Maharashtra, Saras in Rajasthan, Verka in Punjab, Vijaya in Andhra Pradesh, Aavin in Tamil Nadu, etc). Other private players include J K Dairy, Heritage Foods, Indiana Dairy, Dairy Specialties, etc.
Dairying perceived as subsidiary occupation for vast majority of farming community in our country is now acquiring an independent status as main occupation as it is crucial in providing employment .Milk and milk products are one of the important components of Indian food Industry andIndia is the world's highest milk producer and all set to become the world's largest food factory. Dairy food processing holds immense potential for high returns.