The Prime Minister inaugurated the Global Millets (Shree Anna) Conference in New Delhi.
About the conference:
It is a two-day global conference.
It will consists of sessions on all important issues related to millets (Shree Anna) like promotion and awareness of millets among producers, consumers and other stakeholders.
What is Millet?
Millet is a collective term referring to a number of small-seeded annual grassesthat are cultivated as grain crops, primarily on marginal lands in dry areas in temperate, subtropical, and tropical regions.
Nutritionally superior traits:Millet’s score over rice and wheat in terms of minerals, vitamins, and dietary fibre content, as well as amino acid profile.
For example,Bajra (pearl millet) has iron, zinc, and protein levels comparable to that of wheat, but it’s gluten-free and has more fibre.
It can address the problem of “hidden hunger” arising from the consumption of energy-dense but micronutrients-deficient foods.
The rotis from bajra make one feel fuller for longer, as they take more time to digest and do not raise blood sugar levels too fast.
Advantages as a crop:
Millets are hardyand drought-resistant crops.
This has to do with their short duration(70-100 days, against 115-150 days for rice and wheat)
lower water requirement(350-500 mm versus 600-1,250 mm) and
Ability to grow even on poor soilsand in hilly terrain.
Where do millets lag?
Eating Habits: For the poor, both in urban and rural areas, rice and wheat were once aspirational foods
The dominance of traditional grains:Two-thirds of India’s population receives up to 5 kg of wheat or rice per person per month at Rs 2 and Rs 3/kg respectively.
The recent move to place two fine cereals free of cost from January 2023, further tilts the scales against millets.
Cooking: Rolling Rotis is easier with wheat than millet flour
This is because gluten proteins make the wheat dough more cohesive and elastic.
As resultant bread come out light and fluffy (in the case of wheat), which isn’t the case with bajra or jowar.
Low per-Hectare yields: The national average is roughly 1 tonne for jowar, 1.5 tonnes for bajra and 1.7 tonnes for ragi.
Whereas it is 3.5 tonnes for wheat and 4 tonnes for paddy — are a disincentive.
Presence of Infrastructure for traditional grains: With access to assured irrigation, they would tend to switch to rice, wheat, sugarcane, or cotton.
Absence of government procurement at minimum support price (MSP): It makes farmers hesitant to grow even this high-yielding and naturally bio-fortified bajra, suitable for both post-monsoon Kharif and summer cultivation.
Possible Government Intervention:
The Centre has two existing schemes:
PradhanMantriPoshan Shakti Nirman and
SakshamAnganwadi&Poshan 2.0 — with a combined budget of Rs 30,496.82 crore in 2022-23.
These can be better leveraged by making them more millets-focused.
MSP procurement of milletsshould be part of a decentralized nutritional programme specifically targeting tomorrow’s citizens.
Centre could fund any state willing to procure milletsspecific to their region exclusively for distribution through schools and anganwadis.