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Massey University Professor Richard Archer has paid tribute to Verghese Kurien as the “single biggest force in the Indian dairy industry”.
Dr Kurien, who died yesterday after a long illness, studied at the then Massey University Agricultural College in 1953. He came to New Zealand to learn about dairy co-operatives as it was one of two nations – Denmark being the other – renowned for leadership in this area. He spent five months in New Zealand as a senior fellow at the University studying dairy plant design and dairy engineering. He knew little of dairy processing before this having taken a degree in metallurgy.
Dr Kurien became known as “India’s milkman” and was responsible for the systems that led to India becoming the world’s largest milk producer.
He was awarded the World Food Prize – given to those who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world – in 1989.
Professor Archer, the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health head, says Dr Kurien built up the Amul brand of dairy products with knowledge gained in part from his time at Massey.
“He used the co-op as a system by which small amounts of milk (a few litres at a time), surplus to family requirements, could be purchased for cash in good condition and then refrigerated and processed,” Professor Archer says. “He built the Amul brand known across India and whichever parts of the world are occupied by Indians.”
Professor Archer says the University has long been known for its research into dairy systems. “Even then, Massey was a leader in the science that underpins the dairy industry. Our expertise in food technology, agriculture, engineering and veterinary science continues to enable our students to make their mark on the world stage.”