Economics of Millet Cultivation

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    In News

    • Agronomists deliberated on the potential of Millet revolution in India.

    Key Takeaways:

    • Millets have special nutritive and agronomic properties (high in protein, dietary fiber, micronutrients, antioxidants and drought-resistant)
    • In recent years, there has been a decline in area under millet cultivation with production of sorghum and pearl millet has fallen/stagnated, while production of other millets has declined.
    • As per M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, there is need to preserve crop diversity, increase production/consumption, enhance farm incomes
    • Previously, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has declared 2023 as “International Year of Millets” post the proposal for it by India.

    Millets in India:

    • Millets are a group of small-seeded cereal crops that are widely grown in India for their high nutritional value and drought tolerance.
    • Indian millets are drought tolerant and mostly grown in arid and semi-arid regions of India.
    • They are small-seeded grasses belonging to the botanical family Poaceae and are known as “coarse cereals” or “cereals of the poor”.
    • In India, there are two groups of millets grown viz.,
      • Major – sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet
      • Minor – foxtail, little millet, kodo, proso, barnyard millet
    • Historically, millets have been an important staple food in rural India mainly as a kharif crop,especially in the semi-arid regions where other crops may not be able to grow well.

    Key data on Millets in India:

    • In 2019-20, the total offtake of cereals through the Public Distribution System and the Integrated Child Development Scheme was around 54 million tonnes, 20% replacement by millet would require procurement of 10.8 million tonnes
    • Total production of nutri-cereals in 2019-20 was 47.7 million tonnes, the majority being maize
    • Millets are procured in only a few states and central stocks are small (33 million tonnes of rice, 31 million tonnes of wheat, 4 lakh tonnes of nutri-cereals)
    • 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.
    • India is a top 5 exporter of millets, exported $64.28 million in 2021-2022 alone.

    Advantages of Millets

    Challenges of Millets

    • High in nutrient content: Millets are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making them a nutritious food choice.
    • Gluten-free: Many people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance can safely consume millets as they are naturally gluten-free.
    • Promotes weight loss: Millets have a low glycemic index, meaning they are slowly digested and absorbed, which helps regulate appetite and prevent overeating.
    • Supports cardiovascular health: Millets are rich in magnesium and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which help to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
    • Increases energy levels: Millets are a good source of carbohydrates, providing a steady source of energy throughout the day.
    • Supports digestive health: Millets are high in fiber, which promotes bowel regularity and can help alleviate symptoms of constipation.
    • Suitable for multiple diets: Millets are suitable for various diets, including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free diets.
    • Adaptable and drought-resistant: Millets are highly adaptable to different growing conditions and are resistant to drought, making them a valuable food source in regions with unreliable water supply.
    • Supports farmers: The cultivation of millets is beneficial to small-scale farmers as they are relatively easy to grow and require low inputs, which results in lower costs and higher profitability.
    • Low demand and consumption: Millets are not as popular as rice and wheat, leading to low demand and consumption.
    • Lack of processing facilities: Processing and value-addition is limited, which affects the marketability and profitability of millets.
    • Low investment in research and development: There is a lack of investment in research and development of millets, leading to limited information on their cultivation, storage, and utilization.
    • Inadequate storage and transportation infrastructure: Inadequate storage and transportation facilities lead to post-harvest losses and difficulty in reaching markets.
    • Limited marketing and branding: Millets lack proper marketing and branding, making them less attractive to consumers.
    • Competition from cheaper imports: Cheaper imports of grains like wheat and corn often displace millets in the market.
    • Poor awareness: Limited awareness about the nutritional and health benefits of millets among consumers and farmers is a challenge.

    Steps taken by Government to promote Millets:

    • National Food Security Mission: Launched in 2007, the National Food Security Mission aims to increase the production of rice, wheat, and pulses in India to meet the growing food demand of the country’s population.
    • National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm: This mission was launched in 2010 to increase the production of oilseeds and oil palm in India, in order to improve the livelihoods of farmers and enhance the availability of oil for domestic consumption.
    • National Bamboo Mission: Launched in 2006, the National Bamboo Mission aims to promote the cultivation and use of bamboo in India. It provides support for the development of the bamboo industry, including research and development, marketing, and infrastructure development.
    • National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture: Launched in 2010, the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture aims to make Indian agriculture more sustainable, productive, and profitable. This mission focuses on improving the soil health, water management, and cropping practices in Indian agriculture.
    • National Mission for Sustainable Livelihoods: Launched in 2011, the mission aims to provide sustainable livelihoods to the rural poor in India. This mission focuses on enhancing the livelihoods of the rural poor through skill development, job creation, and micro-enterprise development.
    • Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana: Launched in 2007, it is a central sector scheme aimed at improving the productivity of agriculture in India by providing financial support for the development of irrigation, soil and water conservation, and other infrastructure in the agriculture sector.

    What more can be done?

    • Encouraging and supporting farmers to adopt millet cultivation through subsidies and better market access
    • Promoting millet based value-added products to increase demand and profitability
    • Improving millet seed quality and distribution through government and private initiatives
    • Offering training and extension services to farmers on the latest millet cultivation techniques
    • Enhancing research and development efforts to improve the yield and quality of millet crops
    • Improving storage and transportation facilities to reduce post-harvest losses
    • Promoting intercropping with millets to increase farm efficiency and income
    • Encouraging partnerships between farmers, processors, and retailers to create a sustainable millet value chain
    • Encouraging international collaborations to share best practices and knowledge in millet production and marketing.

    Source: TH