© Reuters. A man consumes Amul’s chocolate-flavored drink outside an Amul café in Ahmedabad, India, June 8, 2022. REUTERS / Amit Dave
By Aditya Kalra
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s largest dairy group, Amul, has written to the government urging it to postpone a planned ban on tiny plastic straws, saying the move would have a “negative impact” on farmers and milk consumption in the world’s largest commodity producer.
Amul appealed in a letter reviewed by Reuters dated May 28, sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office ahead of a July 1 ban on straws packed with small packets of juices and dairy products, a market assessed by an industrial body worth $ 790 million. Every year, Amul sells billions of small dairy cartons with attached plastic straws.
The decision has intimidated Amul and global beverage companies, including PepsiCo (NASDAQ 🙂 Inc and Coca-Cola (NYSE :), especially after the government refused to change its stance and asked companies to switch to alternative straws, Reuters reported earlier.
In its letter, signed by CEO RS Sodhi, the $ 8 billion Amul group said the straws are helping to boost milk consumption and called for the ban – part of Modi’s efforts to eradicate polluting disposable plastics – to be postponed for a year.
A delay would “provide tremendous relief and benefit” to 100 million dairy farmers who “protect our food security in the form of milk and dairy products”, Sodhi wrote.
Modi’s office did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
A source familiar with the government’s thinking has previously told Reuters that the straws were a “low-use product” that should instead be replaced with paper straws or packets of newly designed spouts.
Sodhi declined to comment on his letter, but said Amul may have to sell packages without straws when the ban takes effect on July 1.
At a price of between 5 rupees and 30 rupees (7-40 US cents), small beverage packages containing juices and dairy products are hugely popular in India and part of a much larger market for such beverages.
Based in Modi’s home state of Gujarat in western India, Amul is also popular for its plastic bags of milk, cheese and chocolate.
Pepsi’s Tropicana juice as well as Coca-Cola’s Maaza and Parle Agro’s Frooti mango drinks are also among the best-selling beverages. Industry estimates show that 6 billion such packages are sold every year in India.
Praveen Aggarwal of the Action Alliance for Recycling Beverage Cartons, which represents large beverage companies, said companies were considering importing paper straws from China, Indonesia and other nations in light of the upcoming ban.
“There will be disruption,” he said.
A person with direct knowledge of the case said that Parle has also written a letter to the Indian government, saying that there was not enough local production of alternative straws and imported paper and biodegradable varieties 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 economy just doesn’t match a product of 10 rupees,” she said.
Pepsi and Coca-Cola declined to comment.