With ‘superfood’ and ‘eat smart’ strategies forming the main ingredients of the latest dietary mantras, the State Agriculture Department is earmarking farm space in more districts for growing nutrient-rich millets.
Satisfied with its trial run — the Millet Village scheme at Attappady in Palakkad district — the department was planning to expand cultivation to Idukki, Wayanad and other parts of Palakkad, including more tribal villages at Attappady, Agriculture Minister V.S. Sunil Kumar told The Hindu . The department had sought Central support under the national-level mission for promoting millets, Mr. Sunil Kumar said.
Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac, in his State Budget presented on Thursday, had stated the government’s intention to popularise the cultivation of these climate-smart crops.
Under the Millet Village scheme, the department had harvested ragi (finger millet), thina (foxtail millet), cholam (sorghum) and kuthiravaali (barnyard millet) in 1,200 acres. Additionally, a pilot scheme for cultivating Chia, a Central American plant, which is gaining popularity in India as yet another superfood, was progressing at Attappady, Mr. Sunil Kumar said.
A happy combination of factors such as high protein content, short growing season, climate change resilience and low water requirement make millets an ideal crop for the State, he said. ‘‘Millets can be harvested in 60 to 97 days. That is one advantage. Nowadays, people fighting problems such as diabetes and obesity are increasingly turning to these cereal crops,’’ Mr. Sunil Kumar said.
If it plays its cards right, the State can cash in on the national-level interest in millets that is doing the rounds courtesy the superfood fad. The Minister said that he had written to the Union government seeking Kerala's inclusion in the national mission for millets, although the State did not strictly meet the criteria.
‘‘The condition is that we need to have 20,000 acres under cultivation. At present, we have only 1,200 acres under 35 tribal 'Oorus' in Attappady. We have sought a concession indicating the high demand for millets in the State,’’ he said.