India’s Push for Millets

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    • Recently, a pre-launch celebration of the International Year of Millets 2023 was organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of External Affairs.
      • In 2021, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution to declare 2023 as the International Year of Millets.  

    What are Millets?

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    • The word 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)
      • Proso millet (cheena/ common millet)
      • Barnyard millet (sawa/ sanwa/ jhangora)
      • Brown top millet (korale)
    • Millets were among the first crops to be domesticated. In India, millets are mainly a kharif crop.
    • There is evidence for consumption of millets by the Indus valley people (3,000 BC) and several varieties that are now grown around the world were first cultivated in India. 
      • West Africa, China, and Japan are home to indigenous varieties of the crop. 
    • Globally, sorghum (jowar) is the biggest millet crop. 
      • The major producers of jowar are the United States, China, Australia, India, Argentina, Nigeria, and Sudan. 
      • Bajra is another major millet crop in which India and some African countries are major producers.  

    Main millets states

    • Jowar is mainly grown in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, and Madhya Pradesh.
    • Maharashtra accounted for the largest area and production of jowar during 2020-21.
    • Bajra is mainly grown in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
      • The highest bajra producing state is Rajasthan.

    Major Challenges

    • Distribution is negligible
      • The quantity of coarse grains procured for the Central Pool and distributed under the NFSA has been negligible.
      • The push to distribute coarse grains under the PDS has not gained momentum.
    • Low Stocks
      • The latest data on stocks with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) show only 2.64 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) of coarse grain was available in the Central Pool in comparison, the stocks of rice, wheat, and unmilled paddy were 265.97 LMT, 210.46 LMT, and 263.70 LMT respectively. 
    • Consumption patterns
      • In the latest available NSSO household consumption expenditure survey less than 10 percent of rural and urban households reported consumption of millets.

    Significance of Millet as a crop

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    • High nutritive value
      • Millets are considered to be powerhouses of nutrition.
      • They are now regarded as Nutri Cereals for the purposes of production, consumption, and trade.
      • Millets contain 7-12% protein, 2-5% fat, 65-75% carbohydrates and 15-20% dietary fibre. 
        • Small millets are more nutritious compared to fine cereals. They contain higher protein, fat and fibre content. 
    • Grown globally
      • 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.
    • Good for the planet
      • They have a low water footprint and are able to survive in the hottest driest climates and will be important in coping with climate change.
    • Millets under PDS
      • Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, eligible households are entitled to get rice, wheat, and coarse grain at Rs 3, Rs 2, and Re 1 per kg respectively. 
      • While the Act does not mention millets, coarse grains are included in the definition of food grains under Section 2(5) of the NFSA.
    • MSP for millets
      • The government declares a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for jowar, bajra, and ragi. 
    • Good for the farmer
      • Millets can increase yields up to 3 fold, have multiple uses (food, fodder, fuel), and are typically the last crop standing in times of drought being a good risk management strategy for farmers.
    • Political significance
      • Millet is grown mainly in low-income and developing countries in Asia and Africa, and are part of the food basket of about 60 crore people across the globe. 

    Way Forward

    • During 2018-19, three millet crops bajra (3.67%), jowar (2.13%), and ragi (0.48%) accounted for about 7 per cent of the gross cropped area in the country.
    • The Centre is looking forward to including millets in the PDS in order to improve nutritional support.
    • By proposing the resolution to celebrate 2023 as the International Year of Millets, India pitched itself as a leader of this group. This is similar to the Indian initiative on the 121-nation International Solar Alliance

    Source: IE