MILLET DRIVEN PRODUCTION

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Why in news 

The United Nations has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets. India is fast catching up with the western world in millet consumption

What is millet? 

  • It is a common term to categorize small-seeded grasses that are often termed Nutri-cereals or dryland-cereals and includes sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet and Kodo millet, among others.
  • They are also hardier and drought-resistant crops.
  • Millets can grow in poor soil conditions with less water, fertiliser and pesticides.
  • They can withstand higher temperatures, making them the perfect choice as ‘climate-smart cereals.

Distribution around the world 

  • India, Nigeria and China are the largest producers of millets in the world, accounting for more than 55% of the global production.
  •  For many years, India was a major producer of millets.
    • However, in recent years, millet production has increased dramatically in Africa.
  •  In India, pearl millet is the fourth-most widely cultivated food crop after rice, wheat and maize.
    • Millets are available almost across India.

Benefits associated 

  • Millets help in tackling health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and lifestyle problems as they are gluten-free, have a low glycemic index and are high in dietary fibre and antioxidants.
  • Millets are Nutri-cereals that are highly nutritious and known to have high nutrient content which includes protein, essential fatty acids, dietary fibre, B-Vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium and magnesium.
  • It can provide nutritional security and protect against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women.
  • It will also be critical for climate change measures in drylands and important for smallholder and marginal farmers.

Concerns /Challenges

  • The awareness of the benefits of millets is still low and this is the reason for the lesser number of players working on value-added millet products in India.
  • The main reasons behind the decline are low remuneration, lack of input subsidies and price incentives, subsidised supply of fine cereals through the public distribution system (PDS) and change in consumer preferences and lower demand
    • The lower demand also means limited supply and higher prices.
  • In the absence of proper market linkages for forest and agricultural produce, millet consumption is restricted to rural haats, bazaars, tourist spots and festivals.

Government Efforts to Promote Millets Production

  • Millets are being promoted through technology dissemination, quality seeds through millet seed hubs, awareness generation, minimum support price and inclusion in PDS.
  • Efforts are now being done to include the nutrient-rich smaller millets in the mid-day meal schemes in government and government-aided schools in Karnataka and Telangana.
  • Millet awareness is catching up fast in the urban centres such as Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi among others.
  • The Union Agriculture Ministry, in April 2018, declared millets as “Nutri-Cereals”, considering their “high nutritive value” and also “anti-diabetic properties”.
  •  The year 2018 was observed as the ‘National Year of Millets” and the UN General Assembly adopted an India-sponsored resolution to mark 2023 as the “International Year of Millets”.
  • The Government of India’s Millet Mission comes under the National Food Security Mission (NFSM), launched in October 2007.
  • The Mission will focus on developing farm-gate processing and empowering farmers through collectives while focusing on value-addition and aggregation of the produce.

Way Forward

  • There’s a need for developing a decentralised model of processing capabilities so that the growers stand to benefit at a community level and in the growing regions,
  • There is a need to promote the production of more millets by providing price support to farmers as there’s not only a social dimension but also a nutritional and environmental aspect associated with these cereals.
  • Promoting millets could help governments save expenditure on health and nutrition.
  • Dedicated programmes with proper training and capacity-building initiatives that urge farmers to move away from loss-making crops toward diversification via millets can be a timely method to pull farmers away from the region's distress.

SOURCE: THE HINDU 

 

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