Evolution of AMUL
Before the cooperative movement began, middlemen who supplied milk to the consumers were exploiting the dairy industry in the Kaira District. It began as a response to this exploitation and put an end to it. It grew because it responded to the farmers financially as well as with services. It has thrived because farmers who have a stake in its success, own it. And because it has been managed by capable professionals and strengthened by dedicated scientists, technologists and workers, it has forged ahead. Today in India, there are 75,000 dairy cooperative societies, spread all over the country with a membership of 10 million. The farmer in the village is now assured of a better future thanks to these cooperatives. Recently one of the European Embassies in Delhi requested Amul for information on the five biggest "companies" in the dairy business. The first three are in the cooperative sector - The Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), The Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers' Union Limited and The Mehsana District Cooperative Milk Producers' Union. The Kaira District Cooperative is the second best in the country. It helped to create GCMMF, the apex body of all cooperatives in Gujarat.
The Root Cause
In the forties one firm - Polsons, dominated the dairy industry. Established by a rather enterprising gentleman who discovered that Kaira District, of what was then Bombay Presidency, produced a good deal of milk. He established a creamery and for a while the name Polsons was synonymous with butter - much as Amul is today.
One of Polson's businesses was to supply milk to Bombay. As Kaira district was an abundant source of the commodity, Polson was chosen to procure it from there. He in turn, entered into an arrangement with a number of contractors who actually went to the villages and collected the milk. Everyone was happy. Bombay received reasonably good quality milk and Polson made a handsome profit. The contractors too managed to earn large margins by over quoting the farmers. It was only the poor farmers who were unhappy for it. They invested in the animal feed and fodder and they put in their labor. Yet, it was they who received the smallest share of the Bombay consumers' rupee. The arrangement benefited everyone but them.
The First step: formation of Kaira union
Realizing that something needed to be done about the unequal balance of wealth, they turned to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel for advice. Sardar Patel knew that their only chance of earning a decent income was when they themselves gained control over the resources they created. He also knew that the cooperatives offered them the best chance of gaining that control. So he advised them to stop selling milk to Polson and form a cooperative of their own. In his opinion they were to own their own dairy unit. He said, "Throw out Polson and his milk contractors". They followed his advice and the Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers' Union (AMUL) was born, in 1946. By good fortune, they could get as Chairman - Shri Tribhuvandas Patel, an equally remarkable man. He understood the concept of cooperation and he understood people. His integrity was absolute. Because the farmers of Kaira district trusted and respected Tribhuvandas Patel, the cooperative was able to pass through some very difficult times and eventually become a model of cooperative dairying throughout the world.
The Kaira Union began with a clear goal, to ensure that its producer members received the highest possible share of the consumers' rupee. This goal itself defined their direction. The focus was on production by the masses, not mass production. By the early 'sixties, the modest experiment in Kaira had not only become a success, people began to recognize it as such. Farmers came from all parts of Gujarat to learn. They went back to their own districts and started their own cooperatives....