FPOs to Play Key Role in Making India Millet Hub of the World

  • IASbaba
  • February 22, 2022
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FPOs to Play Key Role in Making India Millet Hub of the World

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-2: Government policies and intervention

Context: The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution sponsored by India and supported by over 70 nations declaring 2023 as the ‘International Year of Millets’, aimed at raising awareness about the health benefits of the grain and its suitability for cultivation under changing climatic conditions.

About Millets

  • Millets are coarse grains and a repository of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. 
  • They include jowar (sorghum), ragi (finger millet), korra (foxtail millet), arke (kodo millet), sama (little millet), bajra (pearl millet), chena/barr (proso millet) and sanwa (barnyard millet).
  • Millets were one of the oldest foods known to humans. But they were discarded in favour of wheat and rice with urbanization and industrialization
  • India is their largest global producer, with a 41% market share, and a compound annual growth rate of 4.5% is projected for the global millet market in the coming decade. 

What are their nutritional benefits?

  • Millets are extremely nutritious and good for health and they also need less water and can stored for years, as they have a long shelf life. Millets make for a perfect healthy meal. They are loaded with high amount of starch and proteins, which can be beneficial, if added to the daily diet.
  • These little grains are a powerhouse of nutrition, which help in improving heart health and can effectively reduce coronary blockage. It is enriched with the goodness of magnesium, which can effectively reduce blood pressure and risk of stroke and heart attacks.
  • Millets are a rich source of magnesium, which help in stimulating the level of insulin, thereby increasing the efficiency of glucose receptors in the body, which further helps in maintaining a healthy balance of sugar level in the body.
  • Rich in fibre, millets make for a healthy cereal, which can help in digestion and can relieve bowel issues.
  • Millets are loaded with the components such as curcumin, ellagic acid, Quercetin and catechins, which further help in removing foreign agents and free radicals and balance the enzymatic reactions in the body. These can naturally detoxify the blood.

What are the advantages with Millets?

1. Climate Resilience

  • Being hardy crops, they can withstand extreme temperatures, floods and droughts. 
  • They also help mitigate the effects of climate change through their low carbon footprint of 3,218-kg CO2 equivalent per hectare, as compared to wheat and rice, with 3,968kg and 3,401kg, respectively, on the same measure.

2. Restoration of ecosystems and sustainability: 

  • Land degradation has been a major problem in India, causing massive economic losses year after year. Drought-tolerant crops, like millets, with low dependence on chemical inputs would put far less pressure on ecosystems.
  • The inter-cropping of millets with other crops is especially beneficial because the fibrous roots of millet plants help in improving soil quality, keep water run-off in check and aid soil conservation in erosion-prone areas, thereby restoring natural ecosystems.

3. Biofuel and Ethanol Blending

  • In June 2021, government set a target of achieving 20% ethanol blending with petrol by 2025.
  • Most bio-ethanol in India is produced using sugar molasses and maize. 
  • However, a study conducted among farmers in Madhya Pradesh showed that bio-ethanol can be created using sorghum (jowar) and pearl millet (bajra), and that this fuel could bring down carbon emissions by about half.
  • Estimates also suggest that millets can deliver greater returns than maize, while using 40% less energy in processing. Millets also offer a significant cost advantage over maize as a feedstock for bio-ethanol production.

4. A cultural connection: 

  • The cultivation of millets is deep-rooted in Indian culture. 
  • Organizations like Deccan Development Society have formed women’s collectives in Telangana and are promoting millets through a culture-centric approach. 
  • Such crop sensitization has filtered into urban settings too. In 2018, the #LetsMilletCampaign in Bengaluru saw the use of millets in dishes such as risotto and pizza by restaurateurs. 

5. Helps address Sustainable DGs: 

  • Millets can play a role in India’s sustainability policy interventions. Contemporary research developments have shed light on the influence of millets on energy optimization, climate resilience and ecosystem restoration. 
  • Millet farming has led to women’s empowerment, too. The Odisha Millet Mission, for example, saw 7.2 million women emerge as ‘agri-preneurs’.

What are the concerns with Millets growth?

  • A rise in incomes and urbanization has reduced the demand for millets
  • Inadequate government policies.
  • Unjust pricing for farmers due to intermediaries.
  • Lack of input subsidies and price incentives.
  • Procurement and subsidised supply of rice & wheat through the PDS has made farmers shift from millets to these crops.
  • Millets being used for various purposes other than for consumption. 

News Source: PIB

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