Cereal solution – Dietary shifts are slow processes, and India must let all grains grow

Source: The post is based on an article Cereal solution – Dietary shifts are slow processes, and India must let all grains grow published in The Hindu on 21st March 2023. 

Syllabus: GS 3 – Agriculture 

Relevance: challenges with promoting millets 

News: The PM recently inaugurated a global conference on millets. The United Nations has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets and the Budget 2023-24 has called millets as ‘Shree Anna’.  

What are millets and their benefits? 

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Despite their benefits, they were not promoted during the green revolution. 

Why were millets not promoted during the Green Revolution? 

They were not promoted because of the food security provided by high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat. 

High-yielding varieties of rice and wheat along with guaranteed procurement by the government enabled India to be food secure even in droughts and climate uncertainties. 

However, this food security came at the cost of exploitation of groundwater, excessive use of pesticides and decreasing remunerations for the average farmer over the years. 

As a result, the government is attempting to promote millet to support sustainable agriculture, however, there are challenges to overcome. 

What are the challenges associated with promoting millets? 

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, rice-wheat-maize constitutes 89% of global cereal production. So, millet production needs to be much higher in order to compete with it. 

Further, despite the existence of hybrid varieties of jowar and bajra, the yields have not risen. Hence, it is unrealistic to expect that growth will increase through simple technological advancements. 

Moreover, dietary shifts are slow processes and promoting millets as superior to other grains might have economic consequences and may create hype about them similar to what was observed with cash crops. This can have consequences for marginal farmers.  

Hence, it is preferable to market all grains equally, with an emphasis on expanding the customer base and giving them access to the cereals they want. 

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