Indian dairy product exports are expected to pass the 5bn rupee (US$115m) mark for the first time during 2004-2005, according to a report in the Hindu Group’s Business Line newspaper.

A large chunk of this would come from edible casein, exports of which are alone expected to gross 3.5bn rupees. “This has been a very good year for casein exports, as international prices have been ruling high,” said Gajinder Kumar, managing partner of VRS Foods Ltd.

According to Harsevak Singh, CEO of Mahaan Proteins Ltd, casein exports would touch about 15,000 tonnes during 2004-05. “The average export realisation this year has been around $5,600 per tonne this year free-on-board, as against $4,200 per tonne in 2003-04 and $3,150 per tonne the year before,” he said At about Rs 240 per kg, the value of exports would be in the region of 3.6bn – an all-time high.

Besides VRS Foods and Mahaan Proteins (both Delhi-based), there are two other manufacturers of export-grade edible casein in the country – Dynamix Dairy Industries Ltd, at Baramati, and Cepham Milk Specialities Ltd, at Chandigarh.

While VRS Foods alone would export 4,000 tonnes during the current fiscal, the other three are expected to ship roughly 3,500 tonnes each.

“Last year was bad because the acute milk shortage in the country meant that till November 2003, we could not even operate our plants. This year, not only has domestic milk availability gone up, but also global prices have risen to record levels,” Harsevak Singh said.

Casein prices largely reflect international prices of skimmed milk powder (SMP). These, in turn, are dictated by the `market management’ measures of the European Union. “Currently, international SMP prices are above $2,000 per tonne, which automatically reduces production of SMP in European Union,” Kumar said.