June 15 - 21, 2009

It is a common buying tendency of consumers in Pakistan to prefer low price products over ones with good quality but high priced. Desire of purchasing goods against paying adequate price is not unusual in the country majority of population of which lives below the poverty line and whose low income does not allow them to go for quality if it is available at high price tag. Then in this case, is the state exonerated from the responsibility to ensure provision of quality products that come in the category of low-price?

According to international consumer tenets with which perhaps no nation can detach itself, protecting consumer rights is the fundamental duty of any governing system. In Pakistan, violation of consumer rights is brazenly prevalent when it comes to sale of low priced products which are consumed by the masses. Keep in mind the percentage of poor in total population, half of which reels under the poverty. Furthering in the trap of poverty by unabated hike in food prices, the population must have reached that proportion thus far.

Normally, adulterated products are vastly penetrative in the segment that is on the frontline in the fight against food inflation. On fingertips, one can count umpteen numbers of such consumer goods being sold out openly in markets across Pakistan because of having genuine attraction of low price. Such consumer goods are posing serious danger to health notwithstanding. Dairy products including milk and milk products that are stored with undue care to hygienic conditions and sold loosely are such consumer goods blithely consumed in majority of households. Interestingly, these products are not purchased preferably because of their price advantage but brand unconsciousness, unawareness, and people reluctance about substitutes. The emergence of processed foods in the market would break through the spiral of unconsciousness one day, but that day has not dawned for dairy products as fresh milk and its by-products are still the most preferable consumable items in the country.

According to a conventional estimate, out of 41 million tons of milk production in Pakistan, the share of processed milk and milk products is negligibly 5 to 6 percent. Nevertheless, the later has a slight price difference to the former. In fact, due to uncontrolled price structure of fresh milk sometimes processed milk offers a price advantage over fresh milk. In order to get the market share of fresh milk, pasteurized milk suppliers are selling products at price below than fresh milk. The price of one litre of pasteurized milk ranges in between Rs.40 and Rs.46 while fresh milk is sold at variable rate nationwide but certainly not below that price rate, at least in Karachi. Indeed, some says price of fresh milk is relatively lowest in terms of its quality. There are small numbers of pasteurized milk suppliers in the country at present, and that are so with limited supply network. The supply of pasteurized milk in Lahore and Karachi, apart from scattered availability in different urban settlements, is recorded.

Out of about five pasteurized milk processors, Nurpur, Prema, and another one are based in Lahore. Pasteurized milk and its by-products are slowly permeating in Pakistan. Perhaps, due to conventional dominance of fresh milk in the market and steady pervasiveness of UHT treated tetra packed milk, pasteurized milk is facing tough competition in becoming a healthy substitute of contemporary dairy products. Pasteurization process kills microbial diseases in food by heating it on a temperature that does not destroy vitamin and other nutrition of food during the application. "In contrast, ultra high temperature (UHT) denatures the food of its natural nutrition, making the food indigestible. When the same applies to fresh milk, it is like killing indiscriminately harmful bacteria as well as nutritious value," says a pasteurized milk supplier based in Karachi. Dr. Abbas Merchant is the chief executive of Anmol Taaza that has just introduced pasteurized milk with 'Dr. Milk' brand name in six varieties in the selected localities around the metropolis. Three main categories of one litre pack include standard, cream, and full cream with price tags of Rs40, 42, and Rs46 respectively. On home delivery the supplier charges an additional two rupees per pack. When compared to other processed milk, pasteurized milk has short perishable-timeline. The nutrition preserving process makes shorter of about seven days of pasteurized milk's shelf life.

Another supplier, Millac Foods is selling pasteurized milk and yogurts through four company outlets and distributors in Karachi. The tug of price war between present two brands of pasteurized milk in Karachi that has consumption of 35 to 40 lackh daily is gaining momentum inconspicuously. In initial stage of expanding distribution network, both is probably considering fresh milk producers as direct competitors, though having market intelligence about each other's price structure. "We have one year loss sustainability period and after that if inflationary pressure persists, we ought to revise upward prices," said Dr. Abaas during an interview. Dr. Milk was launched four months back. Ministry of Health has been persuading consumers to use tetra-packed milk through pubic service ads. Pasteurized milk seems not to be a priority in health campaign, despite that it also undergoes certain process in special plant prior to be packed in pouch or box. The supply is carried forward in refrigerated vehicles. In many developed and developing countries, milk and milk products processed under pasteurization are acquiring good shares of consumer dairy products like fresh, powdered, UHT treated milk.