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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Tasks for India’s millet revolution

 

Source: The Hindu

 

  • Prelims: Current events of national and international importance(United Nations (FAO), Millets, World Food Programme (WFP), Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, SDGS etc
  • Mains GS Paper III: Issues related to poverty and hunger, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection of vulnerable sections of society etc

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

Millets:

 

  • They are climate-smart crops: that are drought-resistant, growing in areas with low rain and infertile soil.
  • Millets have special nutritive properties: they are high in protein, dietary fiber, micronutrients and antioxidants
  • Special agronomic characteristics: drought-resistant and suitable for semi-arid regions.
  • Hardier: They are hardier than other cereals
  • Resilient to climate change: More resilient to changes in climate, and require less water to cultivate (as much as 70% less than rice)
  • Energy consumption is less: Less energy to process (around 40% less than wheat).
  • Fewer inputs: They need fewer inputs, they are less extractive for the soil and can revive soil health.
  • Preserves agrobiodiversity: Additionally, their genetic diversity ensures that agrobiodiversity is preserved.

 

India and Millets:

  • India has led the global conversation on reviving millet production: Because of India, the UN declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets.
  • Leading producer: It is the world’s leading producer of millets(around 41% of total production in 2020)
  • National Food Security Mission: Government is implementing a Sub-Mission on Nutri-Cereals (Millets) as part of the National Food Security Mission.
  • State-level missions: Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh revived the indigenous crops for food security.

 

Two groups of millets are grown in India:

  • Major millets: include sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet
  • Minor millets include foxtail, little millet, kodo, proso, and barnyard millet.

 

Importance of Millets:

  • Addresses food security
  • Improved nutrition
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Millet production has been proven to enhance biodiversity
  • Increases yields for smallholder farmers, including rural women

 

Production and consumption of cereals:

  • In 2019-20, the total offtake of cereals through the Public Distribution System (PDS) and the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and school meals was around 54 million tonnes.
  • In 2019-20, the total production of nutri-cereals (earlier called coarse cereals) was 7(forty seven point seven) million tonnes.
    • The bulk of this was maize-a non-millet crop used mainly as feed (
  • The production of sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet along with other millets was 9(eighteen point nine)million tonnes.

 

Implications for use of millets:

  • The inclusion of millets in the PDS would only be feasible if more than 50% production were procured.
  • Millets are procured in only a few States, and stocks in the central pool are small.

 

Barriers in millet consumption:

  • The decline in the area under millet cultivation
  • Low productivity of millets.
  • Jowar: The production of sorghum (jowar) has fallen
  • Bajra: The production of pearl millet (bajra) has stagnated
  • Other millets: The production of other millets, including finger millet (ragi), has stagnated or declined.
  • The productivity of jowar and bajra has increased, but only marginally.

 

The millet project of the MSSRF had three objectives :

  • To preserve crop diversity in local millet varieties
  • To increase production and the consumption of millets
  • To enhance farm incomes.

 

The Kolli hills block(Namakkal district):

  • It is a distinct geographic and agro-ecological region of the Eastern Ghats, populated by income-poor Scheduled Tribe households.
  • There has been a rapid decline in minor millet cultivation.
  • Shift in land use toward more profitable crops such as cassava (tapioca), pineapple, coffee, and pepper.
  • Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR): The area under nutri-cereals has declined steeply in India since the mid-1980s.
    • From 41 million hectares in the 1980s to 24 million hectares in 2017-18.

 

The reasons for a shift in land use:

  • Low yields of millets
  • Processing of millets is a time-consuming and laborious task, undertaken by women.
  • Very little is marketed
  • Tiny share of grain is processed into value-added products.

 

How did the millet project of the MSSRF intervene?

  • Yield enhancement was attempted: using a combination of participatory varietal trials for improved seeds, new agronomic practices, and new technology.
  • Community seed banks were designed and constructed to conserve, restore, revive, strengthen, and improve local seed systems.
  • Customized post-harvest machinery (pulverisers and dehullers) was introduced.
    • The introduction of small-scale localized mechanical milling, operated by self-help groups, was a game-changer.
  • Training: The Kolli Hills Agrobiodiversity Conservers’ Federation (KHABCOFED) was formed to oversee all activities towards training and value-addition.
  • Ready-to-cook products were branded under the Kolli Hills Natural Foods label and market links established.
  • Net returns from value-added products were five to 10 times higher than from grain:

 

Outcome of the last 25 years:

  • Decline in the area under cultivation of minor millets
  • Finger millet at the block level has been stemmed, and, indeed, has increased gradually after 2014-15.
  • Yields have risen as a result of improved seeds, agronomic practices and intercropping.
  • There have been significant improvements in incomes from millet farming.
  • The shift from hand pounding to milling has reduced the drudgery for women and encouraged millet consumption.
  • The number of private mills with customized dehullers and pulverisers has risen
  • The technology has been marketed to Krishi Vigyan Kendras across Tamil Nadu).

 

Steps taken by Government:

  • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana(which promotes organic farming)
  • Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana(which focuses on more crops per drop for improved water use)
  • Soil Health Management(fosters Integrated Nutrient Management under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture)
  • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKY
  • Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman Yojana (PM POSHAN Scheme)
  • Take-home rations.
  • National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013
  • Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)
  • Digitisation and measures such as rice fortification, better health, and sanitation.

 

Way Forward

  • S. Swaminathan had suggested that coarse cereals be replaced by nutri-cereals.
  • Unless productivity and production are increased substantially, all exhortations to consume millets will come to naught.
  • Rapid sample study in 2021 showed that persons of all ages ate millet for nine days per month.
    • Fifteen years earlier, a different study showed that 39% of households consumed millets regularly.
    • Millets can be used as supplementary food due to their nutritional value.
  • Increasing the production of millets and reversing the decline in area cultivated are feasible steps
    • It require multiple interventions including scientific inputs, institutional mechanisms, financial incentives and in-kind support.
  • The Government of India and State governments, notably Karnataka and Odisha, have initiated Millet Missions.
    • These policies are a step in forward directions.
  • Small farmers in hilly regions and dryland plains who are among the poorest households in rural India, are going to cultivate millets only if it gives them good returns.
  • Adequate public support can make millet cultivation profitable, ensure supply for the PDS, and, ultimately, provide nutritional benefits to a wide section of the population.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

How has the emphasis on certain crops brought about changes in cropping patterns in the recent past? Elaborate the emphasis on millets production and consumption.(UPSC 2018) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)