India’s biggest dairy group Amul has written to the government urging it to delay a planned ban on plastic straws, saying the move will have a negative effect on farmers and milk consumption in the world’s biggest dairy producer.
Amul made its appeal in a letter dated May 28 to Prime Minister Narendra Modi before the July 1 ban on straws packaged with small packs of juices and dairy products, a market an industry body estimates to be worth $790m. Amul sells billions of small dairy cartons with plastic straws every year.
The decision has spooked Amul and global drinks majors including PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, especially after the government refused to change its stance and asked companies to switch to other straws.
In its letter, signed by MD RS Sodhi, the $8bn Amul group said the straws help promote milk consumption. It called for a one-year pause of the ban, part of Modi’s drive to stamp out polluting, single-use plastic.
A delay would “provide huge relief and benefit” to 100-million dairy farmers who “safeguard our food security in terms of milk and milk products”, Sodhi said.
A source familiar with the government’s thinking said previously the straws were a “low-utility product” that should be replaced with paper straws or packs with redesigned spouts instead.
Sodhi said Amul may have to sell packs without straws once the ban kicks in on July 1.
Priced between five and 30 rupees (7-40 US cents), small beverage packs containing juice and milk products are popular in India and part of a much bigger market for such beverages.
Based in Modi’s home state of Gujarat in western India, Amul is popular for its plastic pouches packs of milk and also its cheese and chocolates.
Pepsi’s Tropicana juice, Coca-Cola’s Maaza and Parle Agro’s Frooti mango drinks are top-selling beverages. Industry estimates show 6-billion of such packs are sold each year in India.
Praveen Aggarwal of Action Alliance for Recycling Beverage Cartons, which represents drinks majors, said companies were considering importing paper straws from China, Indonesia and other nations. “There will be disruption,” he said.
An informed source said Parle also wrote to the Indian government, saying there was not enough local production of alternative straws, and imported paper and biodegradable variants were about 250% more expensive.
Parle Agro’s CEO Schauna Chauhan said the company had started importing paper straws for now but it was unsustainable. “The economics just does not match up for a 10 rupee product,” she said.
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