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India’s attempts to promote the cereals in 2023

  • Published
    6th Jan, 2023

The United Nations has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets. Despite it having a lot to offer to consumers and farmers, millets aren’t the first choice.


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.
  • Examples: jowar (sorghum), ragi (finger millet), Kodo (Kodo millet), kutki (little millet), kakun (foxtail millet), Sanwa (barnyard millet), cheena (proso millet), kuttu (buckwheat) and chaulai (amaranth).

Positives of millets:

  • 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.

Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) contribution:

  • Hybrid varieties: Pusa-1201, a hybrid bajra that gives an average grain yield of over 2.8 tonnes and a potential of 4.5 tonnes per hectare.
  • Characteristics: It matures in 78-80 days.
  • It is resistant to downy mildew and blasts, both deadly fungal diseases.

Possible Government Intervention:

  • The Centre has two existing schemes:
    • Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman and
    • Saksham Anganwadi & 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.

Role of Schools:

  • Every schoolchild and Anganwadi beneficiary can be served one daily hot mealbased on locally-sourced bajra, jowar, ragi, Kodo, or kutki.
  • It will help combat hidden hunger, besides giving a boost to crop diversification by creating demand for millions of small millets, dairy and poultry farmers.

State Initiatives:

  • Odisha already has a dedicated millets missionthat undertook procurement of 32,302 tonnes worth Rs 109.08 crore, mainly of ragi, in 2021-22.
  • Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana might want to do the same in bajra, just as Maharashtra may for jowarKarnataka for ragi, and Madhya Pradesh for Kodo/ kutki.
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