India’s millet revolution
Millets in India
- Two groups of millets are grown in India viz., major millets and minor millets.
- Major millets include plants such as sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet.
- Meanwhile minor millets include plants such as foxtail, little millet, kodo, proso, and barnyard millet.
The advantages of Millets
- Millets are high in protein, dietary fibre, micronutrients and antioxidants.
- They are also drought-resistant and suitable for semi-arid regions.
The issues with millet consumption
- The total offtake of cereals through the Public Distribution System (PDS) and the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and also school meals in 2019-20 was around 54 million tonnes.
- Replacing about 20% of rice and wheat will result in the state having to procure 10.8 million tonnes of millet.
- The total production of nutri-cereals in 2019-20was 47.7 million tonnes of which 28.8 million tonnes was Maize.
- The production of sorghum, pearl millet, and finger millet along with other millets put together reached 18.9 million tonnes in the same time period.
- This level of production would allow the inclusion of millets in the PDS only if more than 50% production were procured which is unlikely.
- Millets are procured in only a few states currently which has reduced the stocks in the central pool.
- The area under millet cultivation as well as the productivity of millet cultivation has been in decline.
- While the productivity of jowar and bajra has increased marginally, the production of sorghum (jowar) has fallen,the production of pearl millet (bajra) has stagnated, and the production of other millets, including finger millet (ragi), has stagnated or declined.
The millet project of the MSSRF
- The M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) started millet project in the Kolli hills, Tamil Nadu to conserve millet biodiversity and promote the production and consumption of millets.
- A major cause for this has been the shift in land use toward more profitable crops such as cassava (tapioca), pineapple, coffee, and pepper.
- Another issue is that the processing of millets is a time-consuming and laborious task, which is often undertaken by women.
- Along with this is the fact that only a tiny share of grain is processed into value-added products.
- The MSSRF countered this with a three pronged approach.
- First enhancement of yield was attempted using a combination of participatory varietal trials for improved seeds, new agronomic practices, and new technology.
- They also designed and constructed Community seed banks to conserve, restore, revive, strengthen, and improve local seed systems.
- Secondly, they introduced customised post-harvest machinery such as pulverisers and dehullers.
- The introduction of small-scale localised mechanical milling, operated by self-help groups, reduced the effort required by women in hand-pounding millet.
- The third major initiative was training through the Kolli Hills Agrobiodiversity Conservers’ Federation (KHABCOFED).
- KHABCOFED oversaw all activities related to training and value-addition.
Source “Tasks for India’s millet revolution”
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