Climate change is spurring a resurgence of millet cultivation in the country, spearheaded by Karnataka, which is seeking a pan-India market to support its farmers. Erratic rains for the last three consecutive years have forced a shift in the mindset of the state government to promote millets like ragi, jowar and bajra, which are less water-guzzling crops compared with paddy and sugarcane. The state reckons that along with organic crops, millets too will help tide over the water.
Following the success of a national trade fair for organics and millets held early this year in Bengaluru, the government is organising a bigger international trade fair in the city to boost sales and consumption. “Unless there is a market, the farmers may not be willing to take up cultivation of millets. As nutritious cereals with low glycaemic index, millets offer tremendous business opportunity as home-grown solution for breakfast instead of foreign brands,” said Krishna Byre Gowda, Karnataka agriculture minister, who was in Kerala to inaugurate the road show for the international conference organics and millets to be held from January 19 to 21, 2018 in Bengaluru.
The minister hopes to forge tieups with large food companies in Mumbai and New Delhi to introduce millets in the health food space. At present while millets are selling at an average price of Rs 100 per kg in the retail market, the farmers are getting around Rs 40 per kg. “But we need to increase cultivation so as to bring down the prices to make millets more affordable to consumers,” he said. The area under millets in Karnataka has shrunk from 30 lakh hectares to 19 lakh hectares. The government has announced a Rs 34 crore package to encourage their cultivation. “The market pull and the incentive will lead to improved cultivation, Gowda pointed out.
“Millets require no pesticides and only limited chemical fertilisers. Besides they have the advantage of being short duration crop which can be harvested in 90 days,” said Manoj Kumar Menon, executive director of International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture, which is a partner for the international trade fair. Gowda said while the national market for organic food products is predicted to double from Rs 5000 crore by 2020, there are no figures available for country-wide market for millets. “But several states like Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have culture of growing millets.
Source: The Economic Times
Published on: November 8, 2017