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India’s Push for Millets


At a pre-launch celebration of the International Year of Millets 2023 organised by the Ministries of Agriculture and External Affairs named “Covid, conflict, and climate” as the world’s main food security challenges, and placed the cultivation and popularisation of millets in the context of the wider imperative of “de-risking the global economy”.


GS III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Millets crop
  2. Advantages of promoting millets
  3. About International Year of Millets
  4. Millets under PDS
  5. Main millets states

About Millets crop:

  • 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), and brown top millet (korale).
  • Millets were among the first crops to be domesticated.
  • 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.
  • They require much less water than rice and wheat, and are mainly grown in rainfed areas.
  • 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; India and some African countries are major producers.
  • In India, millets are mainly a kharif crop. 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, Agriculture Ministry data show.

Advantages of promoting millets

  • Millets are considered to be “powerhouses of nutrition”.
  • Millets are less expensive and nutritionally superior to wheat & rice owing to their high protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals like iron content.
  • Millets are also rich in calcium and magnesium.
  • Its high iron content can fight high prevalence of anaemia in Indian women of reproductive age and infants.
  • They are also harder and drought-resistant crops, which has to do with their short growing season (70-100 days, as against 120-150 days for paddy/wheat) and lower water requirement (350-500 mm versus 600-1,200 mm).
  • As low investment is needed for production of millets, these can prove to be a sustainable income source for farmers.
  • Millets can help tackle lifestyle problems and health challenges such as obesity and diabetes as they are gluten-free and have a low glycemic index (a relative ranking of carbohydrates in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels).

About International Year of Millets:

  • India’s proposal to observe an International Year of Millets in 2023 was approved by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 2018 and the United Nations General Assembly has declared the year 2023 as the International Year of Millets.
  • This was adopted by a United Nations Resolution for which India took the lead and was supported by over 70 nations.
  • Aim is to increase the domestic and global consumption of Millets.
  • Awareness of the contribution of millet to Food Security and nutrition.
  • Inspire stakeholders to improve sustainable production and quality of millets.
  • Focus on enhanced investment in research and development and extension services to achieve the other two aims.

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 “foodgrains” under Section 2(5) of the NFSA.
  • However, 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.
  • The Centre has accepted the recommendation of a committee set up by it, that millets be included in the PDS in order to improve nutritional support.

Main millets states

  • Jowar is mainly grown in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, and Madhya Pradesh.
  • In 2020-21, the area under jowar stood at 4.24 million hectares, while production was 4.78 million tonnes.
  • Maharashtra accounted for the largest area (1.94 mn ha) and production (1.76 million tonnes) of jowar during 2020-21.
  • Bajra is mainly grown in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
  • Of the total 7.75 mn ha under bajra in 2020-21, the highest (4.32 mn ha) was in Rajasthan.
  • The state also produced the most bajra in the country (4.53 million tonnes of the total 10.86 million tonnes) in 2020-21.

-Source: Indian Express

December 2023