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India goes for big push to Millet production as IYOM-2023 approaches

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Pic. Courtesy Twitter)

India is giving a big push to the cultivation of millets (jawar, bajra, ragi) and promoting the cereal as a nutritious food item for consumers with the United Nations declaring the year 2023 as the International Year of Millets (IYOM) on the initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Addressing the High Commissioners/Ambassadors of around 100 countries at the pre-launch celebration of the IYOM-2023 in Delhi, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the year would see a stepping up of efforts to increase global production and promote millets as a major component of the food basket.

PM Modi has already taken the message to enhance millet production directly to India’s farmers in his Mann ki Baat and Tomar said the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare is working in mission mode to increase millet production and consumption in collaboration with other Central Ministries, all State Governments and other stakeholder organizations.

“The time has come for the Public Distribution System to shift the focus of distribution programs from basic calories to provide a more diverse food basket that includes millets to improve the nutritional status of pre-school children and women of reproductive age,” he explained.

PM Modi has been emphasising the nutritional value of millets and the Government of India had notified millet as a nutritious -cereal in April-2018 and included the grain under the “Poshan Mission” campaign.

Under the National Food Security Mission (NFMS), millets are being included as a nutritious cereal component in 212 districts of 14 States. Apart from this, assistance is being given to farmers by the states to promote cultivation of the crop.

Tomar said funding is also being done by the Ministry of Agriculture for supporting sustainable production, creating awareness for higher consumption, developing market and value chain and research-development activities.

The Minister said more than 66 Startups have been given Rs.6.25 crore, and another 25 Startups have been approved for further funding. “Government is providing support to Start-up entrepreneurs for recipes and value-added products to promote consumption of millet,” he explained.

India has more than 500 startups working in the millet value-added chain, while Indian Institute of Millets Research has incubated 250 startups under RKVY-Raftar.

Tomar also said the NITI Aayog and the World Food Program intend to identify and solve the challenges in a systematic and effective manner. “The partnership will focus on mainstreaming millets and support India in taking the lead globally in knowledge exchange using the opportunities in the form of the International Year of Millets,” he said.

Addressing the High Commissioners/Ambassadors,  Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar said, Millets have increasing relevance in the world today in the backdrop of COVID, climate change, and conflicts.

Dr Jaishankar stressed that millets are important for food security as well as international relations. He said COVID was a period that reminded the world what a pandemic could do to food security. He said climate changes can lower production and disrupt trade. He suggested that in international relations, much greater attention ought to be given to food security.

In his address, Secretary, Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Manoj Ahuja said, pandemic has brought increased focus on the needs to augment the income of small and marginal farmers and millet can be one of the best options for the same. He said, the climate-friendly crop can be grown with less water consumption, less carbon emission and even in drought.

Millet is a storehouse of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals. The International Year of Millets will raise awareness about the contribution of millets for Food Security and Nutrition, motivate stakeholders for continuous production and quality improvement of millets and attract attention to increase investment in research and development services, he added.

Asia and Africa are the major production and consumption centres of millet crops. India, Niger, Sudan and Nigeria are the major producers of millet.

During the last 5 years, India has produced more than 13.71 to 18 million tonnes of millets a year with the highest production in 2020-21.

According to the fourth advance estimates for the year 2021-22, about 16 million tonnes of millets have been produced in India, which is about 5 percent of the national food grain basket.

Millets provide an alternative food system in times of increasing demand for vegetarian foods. Millets contribute to a balanced diet as well as a safe environment. These are the gifts of nature to mankind.

The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare has taken several initiatives to promote domestic and international millets. A series of pre-launch programs and initiatives were also organized on the MyGov platform for the International Year of Millet 2023 to create awareness and a sense of public participation about this ancient nutritious grain (millet). MyGov has become a very important and successful medium for raising awareness through contests.