International Year of Millets – 2023

  • IASbaba
  • January 4, 2023
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Context: The United Nations has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets (IYM). It was an Indian Initiative. It is to make IYM 2023 a ‘People’s Movement’ alongside positioning India as the ‘Global Hub for Millets’.

About Millets:

  • It is a common term to categorise small-seeded grasses that are often termed Nutri-cereals or dryland-cereals and includes sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet and Kodo millet, among others.
  • They are also hardier and drought-resistant crops.
  • Millets can grow in poor soil conditions with less water, fertiliser and pesticides.
  • They can withstand higher temperatures, making them the perfect choice as ‘climate-smart cereals.

Distribution of millets production across the world:

  • India, Nigeria and China are the largest producers of millets in the world, accounting for more than 55% of the global production.
    • For many years, India was a major producer of millets.
    • However, in recent years, millet production has increased dramatically in Africa.
  • In India, pearl millet is the fourth-most widely cultivated food crop after rice, wheat and maize.
  • Millets are available almost across India.

India and millets:

  • ‘Millets’ were among the first crops to be domesticated in India with several evidence of its consumption during the Indus valley civilization.
  • In India, millets are primarily a kharif crop, requiring less water and agricultural inputs than other similar staples.
  • Millets are important by virtue of its mammoth potential to generate livelihoods, increase farmers’ income and ensure food and nutritional security all over the world.
  • Recognising the enormous potential of Millets, which also aligns with several UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Government of India (GoI) has prioritized Millets.
  • In April 2018, Millets were rebranded as “Nutri Cereals”, followed by the year 2018 being declared as the National Year of Millets, aiming at larger promotion and demand generation.
  • Almost 98% of it is just three cereals — bajra, jowar and ragi— with small millets accounting for the rest.

New invention:

  • The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) has bred Pusa-1201, a hybrid bajra.
  • It gives an average grain yield of over 2.8 tonnes and potential of 4.5 tonnes per hectare.
  • It matures in 78-80 days and is resistant to downy mildew and blast, both deadly fungal diseases.
  • The grains have 13-14% protein, 55 mg/ kg iron (normal level is 50 mg/ kg) and 48 mg/ kg zinc (normal: 35 mg/ kg).

Significance of Millets:

  • Millets can also help in tackling health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and lifestyle problems as they are gluten-free, have a low glycemic index and are high in dietary fibre and antioxidants.
  • Millets are Nutri-cereals that are highly nutritious and known to have high nutrient content which includes protein, essential fatty acids, dietary fibre, B-Vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium and magnesium.
  • It can provide nutritional security and protect against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women.
  • It will also be critical for climate change measures in drylands and important for smallholder and marginal farmers.

Challenges of millets production:

  • Selling price was low but now decreasing: For the poor, both in urban and rural areas, rice and wheat were once aspirational foods.
    • But due to the Green Revolution and the National Food Security Act of 2013, two-thirds of India’s population receives up to 5 kg of wheat or rice per person per month at Rs 2 and Rs 3/kg respectively.
    • The present government has, in fact, made the issue of the two fine cereals free of cost from January 2023.
    • This move further tilted the scales against millets.
  • Work required to make it ready for eating: Even for the better-off, rolling rotis is easier with wheat than millet flour.
    • This is because the gluten proteins, for all their drawbacks, make the wheat dough more cohesive and elastic.
    • The resultant breads come out light and fluffy, which isn’t the case with bajra or jowar.
  • Low per hectare yields: For farmers, the national average is roughly 1 tonne for jowar, 1.5 tonnes for bajra and 1.7 tonnes for ragi, as against 3.5 tonnes for wheat and 4 tonnes for paddy — are a disincentive.
    • With access to assured irrigation, they would tend to switch to rice, wheat, sugarcane, or cotton.
  • Absence of Government support: The absence of government procurement at minimum support price (MSP), unlike in paddy and wheat, make farmers hesitant to grow even this high-yielding and naturally bio-fortified bajra (Pusa-1201).
  • Orphan crops: The millets have been reduced to “orphan crops” over the years, planted largely in marginal areas prone to moisture stress.

Suggestion measures:

  • Promoting Use of millets: The nutritional traits, similar to bajra, are present in other millets too: jowar (sorghum), ragi (finger millet), Kodo (Kodo millet), kutki (little millet), kakun (foxtail millet), sanwa (barnyard millet), cheena (proso millet), kuttu (buckwheat) and chaulai (amaranth).
    • Their use should also be increased.
    • Besides midday meals, millets could be served in the form of ready-to-eat foods such as cookies, laddu, murukku, nutrition bars, and extruded snacks (think healthier versions of Maggi, Kurkure, or Cheetos).
  • Huge market base for millets: India, according to the latest official data for 2021-22, has 26.52 crore children enrolled in 14.89 lakh schools from the pre-primary to higher secondary levels.
    • In addition, 71 crore children and 1.80 crore pregnant and lactating women are being provided supplementary nutrition in 13.91 lakh Anganwadis care centres.
    • Given the dire need to alleviate micronutrient malnutrition — especially iron and zinc deficiency that are major causes of anaemia and stunting respectively, while also contributing to impaired cognitive performance and vulnerability to diarrhoea — millets could be made a staple part of children’s diets.
  • One bajra meal each day in Government Schemes: Every schoolchild and Anganwadis beneficiary can be served one daily hot meal based on locally-sourced bajra, jowar, ragi, Kodo, or kutki, along with a 150-ml glass of milk and one egg.
    • It will help combat hidden hunger, besides giving a boost to crop diversification by creating demand for millions of small millet, dairy and poultry farmers.
  • The Centre has two existing schemesPradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman and Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0 — with a combined budget of Rs 30,496.82 crore in 2022-23. These can be better leveraged by making them more millets-focused.
  • Government’s funding: The Centre could fund any state willing to procure millets specific to their region exclusively for distribution through schools and Anganwadis.
    • Odisha already has a dedicated millet mission that undertook procurement of 32,302 tonnes worth Rs 109.08 crore, mainly of ragi, in 2021-22.
    • Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana might want to do the same in bajra, just as Maharashtra may for jowar, Karnataka for ragi and Madhya Pradesh for Kodo/ kutki.
  • Combined funding: A combination of central funding with decentralised procurement linked to nutrition goals — specifically the eradication of hidden hunger among school-age children — can do for millets what the Food Corporation of India achieved with rice and wheat.

Way Forward:

Therefore, it is evident that there is a need to promote the production of more millets by providing price support to farmers as there’s not only a social dimension but also a nutritional and environmental aspect associated with these cereals.

There’s a need for developing a decentralised model of processing capabilities so that the growers stand to benefit at a community level and in the growing regions. Thus, Promoting millets could help governments save expenditure on health and nutrition.

Source:   Indian Express

Previous Year Question

Q.1) With reference to the “Tea Board” in India, consider the following statements:

  1. The Tea Board is a statutory body.
  2. It is a regulatory body attached to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
  3. The Tea Board’s Head Office is situated in Bengaluru.
  4. The Board has overseas office at Dubai and Moscow.

Which of the statements given above are correct? (2022)

  1. 1 and 3
  2. 2 and 4
  3. 3 and 4
  4. 1 and 4


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