dairy factory | A group of 10 people installed a packaging unit, chiller and analyzer to run a dairy business in Kurseong.

The Covid-19 pandemic has created distress across the world, but these difficult times have managed to spur entrepreneurship among residents of the remote Lower Marming village in Kurseong subdivision of Darjeeling district .

As dairy farmers struggle to sell their milk during the pandemic and many return to the village after work, causing even more stress in the family, a group of people from Lower Marming, about 22 km from Kurseong , decided to create a new startup in 2021.

“Dairy farmers from our village who sell milk to Kurseong and Sonada did not find buyers during the pandemic. Additionally, many family members working outside the home have been forced to return home, creating financial stress. That’s when we decided to do something to save the situation of farmers,” said Kamal Rasaily, a teacher at Mamring-Toryok Higher Secondary School.

The group of 10 people, mainly teachers from the school and other prominent residents of the village, pooled together a sum of Rs 50,000 each.

With the funds, the team set up a packaging unit, chiller and analyzer and started a collection center in Lower Marming.

The group brought a touch of originality to the company which ensured the quality of the brand.

“We have decided to pay a good price to farmers, but it will depend on the quality of the milk supplied to us,” said Passang Sherpa, deputy head of the school and member of the group.

Milk is tested for the amount of fat, sugar and water as well as its density.

Depending on the quality of the milk, farmers receive between Rs 40 and Rs 43 per liter. Tests are carried out on each liter of milk collected at the center.

Parsan Khawash, a farmer, said earlier that he was sending milk to Kurseong town. “Before, I received between Rs 20 and 22 per liter. Now I get more than Rs 40 per liter,” Khawash said.

With their model attracting farmers, the group decided to form a cooperative named Gounle Milk Processing Rural Entrepreneur Hub Industrial Cooperative Society Limited.

The packaged milk is sold under the brand Gounle, which means villager in Nepali.

A packet of Gounle milk

The company sells milk to sellers at Rs 52 per liter and they in turn sell it at Rs 60 in the market.

“We are currently collecting 1,000 liters of milk from 78 farmers. Farmers who would only provide us with two liters in 2021 are now providing us with 10 liters. Those who supply five liters now provide us with 20 liters,” Rasaily said.

Gounle milk is now sold in Kurseong, Sonada and Mungpoo.

Samir Chhetri, the head of Sitong’s 2 gram panchayat, who was also part of the group of 10 to launch the initiative, supplies milk to the centre. “I have a cow and I earn around Rs 5,000 per month,” says Chhetri.

The company makes a payment of Rs 7 to Rs 8 lakh per month.

Members of the society, who do not receive profits, now provide interest-free loans to farmers to buy cows.

“Farmers can also keep their money with us. We give them money when needed. They just need to call and we provide the amount immediately to the village, which is even more convenient,” said Rasaily.

The collection center has also added another packaging unit in the last two years. While the packaging unit costs Rs 8 lakh, the cooling units cost Rs 2.5 lakh. The separator and analyzer cost Rs 75,000.

The center also sells paneer at Rs 370 per kilogram and Churpia popular dairy product in this region, for Rs 770.

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