[Answered] Despite their advantages for consumers, and farmers, millets aren’t the first choice. What are the reasons behind it? What should be done to make it more acceptable?

Introduction: Contextual introduction.

Body: Explain some reasons why millets aren’t the first choice for consumers, and farmers. Also write some solutions to make it more acceptable.

Conclusion: Write a way forward.

The term millet is used to describe small-grained cereals like sorghum (jowar), bajra, little millet (kutki), finger millet (ragi), etc. Millets score over rice and wheat in terms of minerals, vitamins, and dietary fibre content, as well as amino acid profile. The year 2023 will be celebrated as the International Year of Millets.

Despite their advantages for consumers and farmers, millets are not the first choice due to following reasons:

  • Market and economic barriers:Unjust pricing and intermediaries have led to farmer distress. Market dynamics don’t favour the growth of millets.
  • Barriers to growth:A rise in incomes and urbanization has led to millets being used for various purposes other than for consumption.
  • Low per-hectare yields: the national average is below 2 tonnes for millets, as against 3.5 tonnes for wheat and 4 tonnes for paddy. With access to assured irrigation, farmers would tend to switch to rice, wheat, sugarcane, or cotton.
  • Due to the Green Revolution and the National Food Security Act of 2013, two-thirds of India’s population receives up to 5 kg of wheat or rice per person per month at Rs 2 and Rs 3/kg respectively. This goes against millets.
  • The absence of government procurement at minimum support price would make farmers hesitant to grow this suitable for both post-monsoon kharif and summer

What should be done to make it more acceptable? 

  • Incentivizing the adoption ofinter-cropping and providing crop insurance: The inter-cropping of millets is beneficial because the fibrous roots of millet plants help in improving soil quality, keep water run-off in check and aid soil conservation in erosion-prone areas.
  • Every schoolchild and anganwadi beneficiary can be served one daily meal based on locally-sourced bajra, jowar, ragi, etc. It will give a boost to crop diversification by creating demand.
  • MSP procurement of millets should be part of a decentralised nutritional programme specifically targeting tomorrow’s citizens.
  • Millets could be served in the form of ready-to-eat foods such as cookies, laddu, nutrition bars, etc.
  • The Centre could fund any state willing to procure millets specific to their region exclusively for distribution through schools and anganwadis. E.g. Odisha already has a dedicated millets mission.

A combination of central funding with decentralised procurement linked to nutrition goals can do for millets what the Food Corporation of India achieved with rice and wheat.

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