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India’s push for millets

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Indian Agriculture/ Nutritional Security

 

Source: Indian Express

Direction: Millet and its promotion is an important part of the government’s agenda and therefore becomes important for UPSC exams

 

Context: At India’s led initiative for the UN’s International Year of Millets 2023, India has called “Covid, conflict, and climate” the world’s main food security challenges, and placed the cultivation and popularisation of millets in the context of the wider imperative of “de-risking the global economy”.

 

Millets are a group of highly variable small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains for fodder and human food.

 

Historical background:

Millets were among the first crops to be domesticated. There is evidence for the consumption of millets by the Indus valley people (3,000 BC), and several varieties that are now grown around the world were first cultivated in India

Global distribution:

 Millets are now grown in more than 130 countries and are the traditional food for more than half a billion people in Asia and Africa. Globally, sorghum (jowar) is the biggest millet crop. The major producers of jowar are the United States, China, Australia, India, Argentina, Nigeria, and Sudan. Bajra is another major millet crop; India and some African countries are major producers.

 

Benefits of Millets:

  • Nutritional Security: cheap and more nutritious. For E.g. Ragi has the highest calcium content and high iron content and can fight the high prevalence of anaemia.
  • Climate Resilient: they are known as hardy and drought-resistant crops. They require much less water than rice and wheat and are mainly grown in rainfed areas.
  • Economic Security: low investment for inputs
  • Against Health Issues: Millets are gluten-free and have a low glycemic index (glucose level) and therefore can help in tackling lifestyle problems and health challenges such as obesity and diabetes.
  • Millets have antiaging and antioxidant
  • Millets are considered to be “powerhouses of nutrition”. In 2018, the Agriculture Ministry declared millets as “Nutri Cereals

 

Challenges:

  • Preference for Wheat as staple food: Wheat because of gluten makes softer food and is more liked.
    Government policies:g. National Food Security Act promotes wheat and rice
  • Lack of awareness about the benefit of Millet.
    • Although coarse grains are included in the definition of “foodgrains” under Section 2(5) of the NFSA, the distribution through PDS is negligible.
  • MSP challenges: The government declares a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for jawar, bajra, and ragi only.
  • Low Consumption: In the latest available NSSO household consumption expenditure survey (which is more than a decade old), less than 10 per cent of rural and urban households reported consumption of millets.
  • Other challenges: lack of input subsidies and price incentives, and changing consumer preferences.

  

Initiatives in India:

  • Government declared (in 2018) millets as “Nutri-Cereals”, considering their “high nutritive value” and also “anti-diabetic properties”.
  • The 2018 year: ‘National Year of Millets”.
  • Increase in MSP for millets
  • The government has included millets in the public distribution system (PDS) and POSHAN Abhiyan.
  • Millet Mission (under the National Food Security Mission): It will help develop farm-gate processing and empower farmers using FPOs.
  • Kerala State Agriculture Department: Millet Village scheme
  • Millet Startup Innovation Challenge
  • A contest for designing a comic story, with the theme ‘India’s Wealth, Millets for Health’

 

Other Initiatives for millets:

  • SCO: India proposed to organize the “Millet Food Festival’

Conclusion:

In view of the impact of climate change and the government’s aim for climate-smart agriculture, Millets deserves encouragement. It can also help in providing nourishment to people across all income categories and supporting climate adaptation of rainfed sustainable farming systems.

 

Mains Links

Q. Millets have enormous potential to form a core component in climate-smart agriculture whilst offering nutritional and food security benefits. Elaborate. (15M)

 

Prelims Link

Consider the following crops of India: (UPSC 2012)

  1. Groundnut
  2. Sesamum
  3. Pearl millet

Which of the above is/are predominantly rainfed crops/crops?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer: D

Over 60% of the total cropped area in India is Rainfed. Millets (89% area is rainfed); Pulses (88%); Cotton (73%), etc.

 

Among the following, which one is the least water-efficient crop? (UPSC 2021)

(a) Sugarcane

(b) Sunflower

(c) Pearl Millet

(d) Red gram

Answer: A