Chief Operating Officer (COO) Haleeb Foods MK Lodhi termed addition of sales tax to the cost of packaged milk and imposition of 25 percent regulatory duty on import of skimmed milk products (SMP) announced in the budget 2016-17 as a big burden on the industry and urged the government to withdraw it to bring down the increasing cost of doing business in this sector.
While talking to media persons here on Wednesday, Lodhi said that earlier 17 percent sales tax was refunded to this sector but the government withdrew this facility during the current fiscal's budget which, being the food sector, the dairy industry could not pass on to the consumers. He said the imposition of sales tax and regulatory duty increased the cost of doing business but the market did not respond to this price increase.
He said Haleeb Foods alone had to bear a burden of Rs 2.4 billion because of these taxation measures by the government. Lodhi also threw light on the measures being taken by his company to ensure the quality of milk they are providing to the market. He said they perform seven different tests on raw milk collection points. "We have 170 milk collection plants across the country and perform seven immediate tests on the milk collected from these points. Subsequently, 23 other tests are conducted at the milk screening laboratory of the Haleeb plant to determine the quality of the milk," Lodhi added.
He said they were collecting around 80,000 liters per day while their sale was only 20,000 liters per day. On this occasion, he stressed the need for screening of loose milk which was being sold in the country. He said packaged or processed milk only account from 5-6 percent of the total milk production on which the government agencies were putting all the pressure to be fair while no one was addressing the loose milk which was being sold without any check.
"UHT processed milk is totally safe and nutritious owing to the technology used and the strict quality control exercised," he said. He claimed there was absolutely no economic sense and logic at all for milk processors who market milk in Tetra Pak cartons to add anything to the milk bought directly from farmers.
Boiling milk at home kills only about 50 to 70 percent bacteria because at home the cooker temperature averages only between 70 to 90 degree centigrade. The boiling milk at home for several minutes also destroys the majority of nutrients. On the other hand, in the UHT process, the milk is heated rapidly to a temperature exceeding 137 degrees and kept at this temperature for less than 4 seconds before it is rapidly cooled for further processing. The UHT treatment eliminates 99 percent or more of harmful bacteria while preserving nutrients at well over 80 percent, Lodhi claimed.
Regarding tea creamers and whiteners, he said their company had never claimed their tea creamer as a replacement of milk. He said they had always claimed it as a tea whitener. He disclosed that the tea creamers would be available in the market from June 30, 2017, in new designs with 'this is not milk' printed on it as per the requirement of the Punjab Food Authority