Chennai Floods: Milk remains a dear commodity even as vegetable prices inch northward

After Cyclone Michaung devastated Chennai, disrupting essential services and normalcy, essential services are yet to be restored.

BySouth First Desk

Published Dec 08, 2023 | 8:30 AMUpdated Dec 08, 2023 | 11:46 AM

Chennai Floods: Milk remains a dear commodity even as vegetable prices inch northward

Manjula A, a 32-year-old resident of Perumbakkam Housing Board, bought a half-litre of milk for ₹70 on the evening of Thursday, 7 December.

She had to forgo her lunch to spend the money on her two-year-old daughter. 

A vegetarian restaurant at Sithalapakkam served no curd as part of the meals as there had been no supply of milk.

“We charge our customers ₹5 less as we are unable to provide curd or buttermilk,” said T Gnanasekar, the restaurant owner. 

First Person: Living through 36 hours of Cyclone Michaung in Chennai

Far from normalcy

Days after cyclone Michaung devastated Chennai, disrupting essential services in particular and normalcy in general, the supply chains of several items such as milk were yet to be restored.

In most parts of Chennai, people were relying on stocked-up milk powder packets. 

Chennai’s routine milk powder distribution remained uninterrupted, and an extra 12.5 tonnes of milk powder was distributed a day after the natural disaster, and another 11 tonnes the following day.

There seemed to be an ample stock of milk powder to sustain a continuous supply.

Individuals requiring additional milk powder could reach out to Aavin outlets for assistance, Milk and Dairy Development Minister T Mano Thangaraj posted on X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday. 

Aavin supply disrupted

A shortage in Aavin milk supply persisted, while private milk dealers managed to distribute without constraints. The three Aavin plants — at Ambattur, Sholinganallur and Madhavaram — supply 15 lakh litres a day to Chennai. 

That processing-plant faces challenges, with only 50 percent of employees attending due to commuting issues, causing disruptions in milk packet packaging.

Cyclone Michaung also led to inundation at Aavin’s Ambattur plant, impacting five lakh litres of milk production. 

“Only 25 percent of the milk is being supplied now. While Mano Thangaraj said that there is no shortage, things on the ground reflect a different reality,” said SA Ponnuswamy, founder and state president of the Tamil Nadu Milk Dealers Employees Association. 

Milk is primarily distributed to monthly cardholders at Aavin booths, and the dealers and hoteliers relying on Aavin’s milk have been returning with empty hands for three days now.

“Even for monthly card-holders, it is provided on a first-come-first-served basis. There is a shortage of supply, what else can we do?” said Kavin Kumar at a Aavin booth at Chromepet. 

Chennai floods: Officials turn a blind eye as Semmencherry residents suffer

Vegetable prices rise

As truck movement was disrupted due to the torrential rainfall, there has been a slight increase in the price of vegetables in Chennai. Adding to that, consumers rue that the stock in the shops are poor. 

“A kilo onion costs ₹50 in the wholesale market, against ₹40 last week, before the rains. A kilo of beans cost ₹60, while tomatoes cost ₹30 and broad beans cost ₹50,” said Soundararajan, a wholesale dealer and market advisor at the Koyambedu market. 

The prices were also increased as traders, anticipating heavy rain, asked the farmers to not send the stock.

“Prices will come back to normal in the next two days,” said Soundarrajan. 

It may be noted that the bus services by MTC resumed a day ago, except in those areas that are severely waterlogged such as Mudichur, Guduvanchery and Varadharajapuram. Bus services were deployed for rescue operations prioritising the safety of citizens, MTC Chennai posted on X.

While Metro Rail has been functioning with less frequency even during the rains, Chennai Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) services and suburban railways resumed operations with 30-minute and hourly frequency.