Why India’s push for millets is yet to gain widespread traction

Source: The post is based on an article “Why India’s push for millets is yet to gain widespread traction” published in The Indian Express on 26th November 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Agriculture

Relevance: importance of millets

News: The year 2023 will be celebrated as the International Year of Millets. The external affairs minister S. Jaishankar has put emphasis on popularizing millets.

What are millets?

Millets is used to describe small-grained cereals like sorghum (jowar), pearl millet (bajra), foxtail millet (kangni/ Italian millet), little millet (kutki), kodo millet, finger millet (ragi/ mandua), etc.

Ancient crop: Millets are among the first crops to be domesticated. There is evidence for consumption of millets by the Indus valley people. The varieties of millets grown across the world were first cultivated in India.

Distribution: West Africa, China, and Japan are home to indigenous varieties of the crop. 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.

Growth: They require much less water than rice and wheat and are mainly grown in rainfed areas.

Millets produced across the world

Jowar: Sorghum (jowar) is the biggest millet crop. The major producers of jowar are the United States, China, Australia, India, Argentina, Nigeria, and Sudan.

Bajra: It is another major millet crop; India and some African countries are major producers.

Millets produced in India

Millets are mainly a kharif crop in India. Three millet crops — bajra, jowar, and ragi — accounted for about 7 per cent of the gross cropped area in the country during 2018-19.

Jowar: It is produced in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, and Madhya Pradesh. Maharashtra is the leading producer.

Bajra: it is produced in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka. Rajasthan is the leading producer.

What are the benefits of millets?

They have high nutritional value. The Agriculture Ministry has also declared millets as “Nutri Cereals”. Small millets are more nutritious compared to fine cereals. They contain higher protein, fat and fiber content.

Are Millets included under PDS and MSP provided by the government?

The National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013 does not mention millets but coarse grains are included in the definition of “food grains” under Section 2(5) of the NFSA.

However, the quantity of coarse grains procured and distributed under the NFSA has been negligible.

Therefore, the government has decided to include millets in the PDS to improve the nutritional status of pre-school children and women of reproductive age.

The government declares a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for jowar, bajra, and ragi only.

What is the consumption pattern of millets in India?

As per the latest NSSO household consumption expenditure survey less than 10 percent of rural and urban households consumes millets. The urban areas consumed less compared to rural areas in India.

Millets are mainly consumed in Gujarat (jowar and bajra), Karnataka (jowar and ragi), Maharashtra (jowar and bajra), Rajasthan (bajra), and Uttarakhand (ragi).

What is the geo-political significance of the proposal made by India?

Millet is grown mainly in low-income and developing countries in Asia and Africa.

India has put itself as the leader of the group by proposing the resolution at UNGA to celebrate 2023 as the International Year of Millets like International Solar Alliance initiative.

Therefore, this proposal will help India to lead the world in spreading awareness for millets.

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