01 January 2014

Powdered racket?

The Sinhala word for powder would be ‘kudu’.  ‘Kudu’ however has acquired a new meaning and one that has become so much a part of colloquial usage that if you translated back into English you won’t get powder but drugs!  There’s that kind of powdered racket too where the high and (shall we say?) less-than-mighty stand indicted for crimes of omission or commission in the public eye.

There are other powdered rackets.  White stuff. Milk.  The year 2013 was not exactly overflowing in kiri and peni, that’s milk and honey, but we had milk all over the media.  There was the DCD issue.  There was the case of a prominent milk powder distributor virtually purchasing insurance by way of sponsoring professional associations.  There was and is the vexed issue of hoarding. And now we have impending price hikes. 

The inimitable Daya Dissanayake offers some thoughts: ‘If milk powder importers stop all advertising, most of which are untruths and most unethical anyway, they do not need a price increase. The CAA should ask them to submit the total amount each importer spends on advertising and other forms of promotion.’

The evidence makes it hard to dismiss Daya’s assertions about truth and ethics.  The Nation has pointed out that there is fear mongering in addition to exaggerated claims and falsehoods.  There’s also concealment of pertinent information.  One can’t really object to advertising though.  The trick would be to keep things sane and for the advertising fraternity to come up with some kind of ethical advertising guidelines.  Even if that were the case, it would be hard to enforce a limit on advertising expenditure.  Milk companies make huge profits.  Even if the percentage set aside for advertising is lowered, it would still be something that would make ad agencies salivate. 

It’s good to know the numbers of course. Gives perspective.  The numbers can be obtained even if the particular milk powder companies don’t furnish them voluntarily.  The numbers will tell a tale.  The public needs to hear it.

There are many ways to cut costs.  Packaging is one.  Take any random milk powder carton.  The milk powder is contained in a sealed bag inside the cardboard carton.  Take the bag out and keep it near the carton.  You will find that the cardboard container is close to double the size actually required to hold the milk powder. Why?  It’s a classic promotional technique: ‘keep things larger than life; catch and hold the eye, mesmerize!’  Like politicians and their cut-outs. 

We are paying for that extra cardboard.   We don’t drink it, do we, though?

Daya is correct.  We don’t need a price increase.  Indeed we don’t need so much powdered milk.  Some might argue we don’t need milk at all!  The DCD scare made people think again about purchasing powdered milk. People rejected and still reject Fonterra brands.  There was a milk powder scarcity since other brands couldn’t make up for the loss on the supply side of the equation.   

Hoarding exacerbated the issue. 

Bottom line: there were no riots.  People seem to have realized that they can do without powdered milk.  Maybe that’s what’s bugging the milk powder companies most. 



Anonymous said...

The state and its agents must decide what we may eat, drink? And regulate what businesses should spend?

Taxes on milk powder are one reason for the high prices, in fact the principal reasons (like all basic foodstuffs in this country)


The DCD issue- what was that excatly? Blew up and died away. Was taht too manufactured by the propaganda mills of the state?