The area under which minor millets is grown is shrinking year after year in Kurnool district as has been the trend elsewhere in State.
Foxtail millet (Sataria italica), which used to be cultivated in an area of two lakh hectare in the district two decades ago has now shrunk to 20,000 hectare.
The millet, known as Korra in local parlance, remains to be the staple diet of rural people. However, after the introduction of the subsidised rice scheme in the early eighties, people switched over to rice and the demand started declining for millet.
However, of late, the importance of foxtail millet was recognised as diabetic food. The millet is rich in dietary fibre (6.7 per cent), protein (11 per cent) and low in fat (four per cent).
Unlike rice, foxtail millet releases glucose steadily without affecting the metabolism of the body. The incidence of diabetes is rare among the population which consumes foxtail millet diet.
According to G. Narasimha Rao, former scientist of Agriculture University, foxtail millet is a versatile crop which can be grown in any season of the year with the shortest crop cycle of 60 to 90 days.
No other food crop can be grown in such a short period. Considering the importance of the millet in Kurnool district, the government has sanctioned a research centre for the district, which is located at Nandyal.
So far, the centre has released new varieties of the millet such as Nallama Korra, Krishnadevaraya, Narasimharaya, Srilakshi and Suryanandi. Srilakshmi, which gave a yield of 14 quintal per acre this year has been popular among farmers.
The duration of Suryanandi was reduced to 60 days which could be accommodated in any season.
The foxtail millet grain is available only in select urban shops at present in ready-to-cook form and is priced at Rs.28 a kg, less than the price of rice.
Other millets of the group such as Arika, Sama, Ooda and ragi are vanishing gradually even from the homes of farmers.
Dr. Narasimha Rao argues that jowar and foxtail millet should be included in the subsidised food scheme to prevent incidence of diabetes.