Importance of Nutri-cereals

What are Millets and its benefits?

Millet is a common term to categorize small-seeded grasses that are often termed nutri-cereals or dryland-cereals. It includes jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet) and ragi (finger millet), small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, kodo millet and other millets.

Benefits of millets-

  1. Nutrition- High in dietary fibre, nutri-cereals are a powerhouse of nutrients including iron, folate, calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, copper, vitamins and antioxidants.
  • Millets can provide nutritional security and act as a shield against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women.
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes in adults.
  1. Photo-insensitive & resilient to climate change– millets are hardy, resilient crops that have a low carbon and water footprint, can withstand high temperatures and grow on poor soils with little or no external inputs.
  • Adapted to low or no purchased inputs and to harsh environment of the semi-arid tropics, they are the backbone for dry land agriculture.
  • These unique features make millets suited for and resilient to India’s varied agro-climatic conditions.

What are the reasons for decline in the production of millets?

  1. Green revolution- The focus was on food security and high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice. An unintended consequence of this policy was the gradual decline in the production of millets.
  2. Change in consumer demand– Due to change in consumption pattern, dietary habits, unavailability of millets, low yield, less demand and conversion of irrigated area for cultivation of rice and wheat.4

What are steps taken to address this situation?

To address this situation, a multi-pronged strategy has been adopted for the promotion of nutri-cereals by the current government-

  1. Rebranding– In order to promote ‘millets’, India had on its part notified these climate resilient crops as Nutri-Cereals.
  2. Increment in MSP– The government hiked the MSP of nutri-cereals so that more and more farmers may opt for cultivation of these less water consuming crops.
  • MSPs have been calculated so that the farmer is ensured at least a 50 per cent return on their cost of production.
  1. Marketplace– To provide a steady market for the produce, the government included millets in the public distribution system for improving nutritional support.
  2. Farmer friendly schemes– the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare is running a Rs 600-crore scheme to increase the area, production and yield of nutri-cereals.
  • With a goal to match the cultivation of nutri-cereals with local topography and natural resources.
  • The government is encouraging farmers to align their local cropping patterns to India’s diverse 127 agro-climatic zones.
  • Provision of seed kits and inputs to farmers, building value chains FPO and supporting the marketability of nutri-cereals.
  1. Generate demand– The Ministry of Women and Child Development has been working at the intersection of agriculture and nutrition by setting up nutri-gardens, promoting research on the interlinkages between crop diversity and dietary diversity and running a behaviour change campaign to generate consumer demand for nutri-cereals.

Way forward-

  • The multi-ministerial policy framework is a strategic move towards building an Atmanirbhar Bharat which resonates with the global call for self-sufficiency and sustainable development.
  • People should take small steps towards choosing healthier foods, which are good for the environment and bring economic prosperity to farmers.
  • Partially processed millet products can be made available in the market to promote its consumption and thus, create a demand for these nutritious grains and simultaneously reduce the reliance on staples like rice and wheat.
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