Increasing production and consumption of millets - Hindustan Times
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Increasing production and consumption of millets

ByNiti Aayog
Jul 28, 2022 01:22 PM IST

The article has been authored by Neelam Patel, a senior advisor and Saloni Bhutani, young professional, Agriculture and Allied Sectors Vertical, NITI Aayog.

The 21st century has brought with it multiple challenges for our country. Chief issues include undernourishment, micronutrient deficiency, lifestyle disorders, and non-communicable diseases. Our diet isn't balanced; we consume foods dense in calories but lack essential micronutrients and dietary fibre, which has translated into poor health for many. Data on health indicators, as published by NFHS 5 India Report 2022, shows that 59.1% of women are anaemic, 35.5% of children are stunted, 32.1% of children are underweight, 24.0% and 22.9% of women and men are obese, and 8.9% of the population is diabetic.

Data on health indicators, as published by NFHS 5 India Report 2022, shows that 59.1% of women are anaemic, 35.5% of children are stunted, 32.1% of children are underweight, 24.0% and 22.9% of women and men are obese, and 8.9% of the population is diabetic. The humble millet is one such whole-grain crop which is not just beneficial for the consumer but also for the farmers, as well as the environment. PREMIUM
Data on health indicators, as published by NFHS 5 India Report 2022, shows that 59.1% of women are anaemic, 35.5% of children are stunted, 32.1% of children are underweight, 24.0% and 22.9% of women and men are obese, and 8.9% of the population is diabetic. The humble millet is one such whole-grain crop which is not just beneficial for the consumer but also for the farmers, as well as the environment.

The humble millet is one such whole-grain crop which is not just beneficial for the consumer but also for the farmers, as well as the environment. It is nutritionally superior to cereals, non-acid forming, non-allergic, easy to digest, and rich in protein, antioxidants, dietary fibre, iron, magnesium, and calcium. It helps maintain body weight, improve haemoglobin levels, reduce iron deficiency, fight anaemia, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and various other non-communicable diseases. The crop is also easy to grow, requires less water, helps improve soil health, and is climate-resilient. Realising the potential of millets, the Government of India has been taking several steps, such as celebrating the National Year of Millets in 2018, formulating policies on millets, etc., to gazette millets as nutri-cereals.

Following the proposal to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Year 2023 has been declared as the International Year of Millets. Around 70 countries have pledged to engage various stakeholders for promoting the wider usage of millets and higher production and productivity of millets across the globe. India, being the largest producer of millets and proposer of IYM-2023, needs to exercise leadership in reviving millets through scaling up and replicating the millets value chain in other countries to leverage the emerging demand from global markets.

Millets have a vast potential to expand dietary diversity. However, our country's cultivation and consumption are witnessing a sharp decline, owing to demand and supply-side constraints. The per capita consumption of millets fell drastically from 32.9 kg to 4.2 kg from 1962-to 2010 (Source: Assessing Millets and Sorghum Consumption Behaviour in Urban India: A Large-Scale Survey, 2021). The responsible demand-side factors include:

Increasing urbanization and per capita incomes are changing consumer tastes and preferences.

Poor social status and inconvenience/ lack of traditional knowledge to prepare millets (especially sorghum).

Lower shelf life of milled grains.

Rice and wheat are included at a larger scale in the PDS.

Millets haven't been uniformly included in the PDS.

Supply-side factors include:

Lack of industrial demand for value-added millet products discourages farmers from cultivating millets.

Low profitability.

The Green Revolution has favoured the production of rice and wheat, including output price incentives and input subsidies

Lack of access to quality seeds.

Inadequate infrastructure such as processing technologies, and unique milling equipment to address the total value chain.

The biggest reason for low consumption levels of millets, however, is a weak value chain, including inadequate primary processing at the village level and a huge distance between production units to processing units, which crowds’ out local production and inflates the cost of processed millet products. Private entrepreneurs are unaware of the existing government policies and programs that enable them to avail credit and other support to procure and process millets using technology into ready-to-eat/ready-to-cook (RTE/RTC) value-added millet products, which in turn limits the marketing of millets.

The demand for various types of millets, including barnyard millet and finger millet has gone up significantly across the globe since the breakout of the Russia-Ukraine conflict as Russia and Ukraine have banned the export of millets and its by-products. The time is thus ripe for India to address the millet value chain issues to enhance the production, consumption, and exports of millets and their by-products.

The time is thus ripe for India to address the millet value chain issues to enhance the production, consumption, and exports of millets and their by-products.
The time is thus ripe for India to address the millet value chain issues to enhance the production, consumption, and exports of millets and their by-products.

Adopting a hub-and-spoke model can significantly accelerate movement across the millet value chain. Processing units should be placed closer to production sites, where at first primary processing and quality control checks should be made (working as spoke), and then the secondary processing quality control checks, packaging, and branding should be done at the central level in bigger scale (working as a hub). This will not only reduce the factory gate pricing of millet products but will also generate off-farm opportunities and better monetary benefits for cultivators as they will get a chance not just to cultivate millets but also to add value to them. Involving more people in processing will also create more employment opportunities at the village level, especially for women. It will also make RTE/ RTC millet-based products affordably accessible to rural households, thereby increasing consumption.

The Government is a critical stakeholder in strengthening the value chain of value-added millet products and is making dedicated efforts to provide policy support to the small and marginalised farmers growing millets and other stakeholders. The Minimum Support Price (MSP) for significant millets has already been announced in most states, and they are working towards having an MSP for minor millets in the coming days. The Government has already issued guidelines to include major and minor millets in PDS, depending on their availability in a particular state. Various ministries are already providing different kinds of support, e.g., finance, infrastructure, technology, etc., to various stakeholders. The ministry of agriculture and farmers welfare (MoA&FW), via its schemes, supports Self-Help Groups (SHGs)/Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) in primary processing at the village level. The ministry of small and medium enterprises (MSME), via its schemes, supports the secondary processing, provides soft loans, gives accreditation to private entrepreneurs to enable easy access to funds, and promotes adoption of a co-pay model to incentivise decentralised RTE/RTC processing units at sites closer to production.

There is a need to converge various existing schemes of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) and Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) and make a conscious effort to support processing units run by women entrepreneurs/SHGs/cooperatives. These women should be provided microfinance, NRLM funds, and adequate training to process millets into RTE/ RTC products, which in turn will help economically empower rural women, encourage more women and enable creation of more women-run SHGs/cooperatives at a village level. The ministry of food processing industries (MoFPI) promotes mechanisation and creation of a conducive environment for pivoting R&D efforts to the private sector. These value-added products are then provided to:

Markets, SHGs, cooperatives, PDS under schemes of the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) and PM POSHAN Scheme

Anganwadis and schools under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS)

Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) for export purpose

Odisha’s initiative of signing a memorandum of agreement between the Mission Shakti and Odisha Millets Mission for promoting millet entrepreneurship and conducting millet awareness campaigns through Women SHGs in 14 districts of Odisha serves as a role model for other states. We need to replicate efforts like that of the Odisha Government and strengthen extension systems at the central and state level to create awareness of existing Government policies and programs. This will undoubtedly help build a strong value chain and enable millets to become a regular product in the consumer basket.

Production process.
Production process.

The article has been authored by Neelam Patel, a senior advisor and Saloni Bhutani, young professional, Agriculture and Allied Sectors Vertical, NITI Aayog.

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