January , 2024
India initiates millets revolution
21:00 pm

Ashis Biswas

Even the most ardent critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), must acknowledge the NDA Government’s propensity for launching bold and innovative schemes. Hence, it’s no

surprise that the Government of India (GOI) has recently initiated two groundbreaking programs poised to positively impact millions of Indian lives. These initiatives encompass: (a) a new scheme to provide free rations to an estimated 800 million people for the next five years and (b) India’s ambitious project aimed at fostering the production and global export of millets as a fundamental cereal.

While considerable media scrutiny has been devoted to analyzing the proposed free ration program, scant attention has been paid to the drive promoting increased production and consumption of millets. Nonetheless, initial surveys suggest that this somewhat underestimated cereal, if widely consumed, could serve as an effective remedy in alleviating the escalating issues of malnutrition and food scarcity worldwide.

National policymakers are advocating for the expansion of millets’ presence in the universal food basket after comprehensive research. It’s no coincidence that India is championing this subtle shift in dietary habits beyond its borders—it stands as the world’s largest millet producer!

The cultivation of millets on a large scale presents evident advantages: resilience to high temperatures, minimal water requirements, and a mercifully short growth cycle,

minimizing extensive expenses. Typically thriving in semi-arid zones such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh, India recorded nearly 18 million tonnes of millet production during the 2022 crop season.

Moreover, millets are cultivated in other nations like Mali, Niger, and Nigeria. Their compelling advantage lies in evolving as a significantly cheaper yet effective alternative to rice and wheat. For India, increased production bears an added advantage: it serves as a robust export commodity.

A report indicates that during 2021-22, the country earned $64 million from millet exports, marking a 12% increase from the previous year.

This escalation in millet production across various regions in India presents a lifeline for financially strained farmers who lack regular access to irrigated water sources and incur substantial losses from cultivating heat or rice. They now have a potentially life-saving alternative—hinging on the extent of official support bolstering their endeavors—towards a new path of economic empowerment.

While Nepal, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE stand as major purchasers of millets from India, the US, Japan, and Belgium also feature among the top ten buyers. India aims to target over 100 countries in the future, with a predominant focus on supplying African nations. 

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