The Congress government in Rajasthan has planned mainstreaming of millets in the public-funded programmes with the convergence of several departments, which will lead to demand generation with the involvement of rural households, anganwadi centres and self-help groups. The State ranks at the forefront of millet cultivation in India, producing about 41% of the country’s yield.
Following the declaration of 2023 as the International Year of Millets by the U.N. General Assembly, the State has been promoting indigenous varieties of the coarse grains with a special focus on the consumption of local and traditional recipes. A two-day Rajasthan Millet Conclave held here earlier this week laid emphasis on research on millets.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said at the conclave that a “robust infrastructure” existed in the State for research on millets, while this year’s separate agriculture budget would provide new opportunities to the farmers, start-ups and agricultural entrepreneurs to move ahead. The State government was formulating strategies for better production, management and marketing of millets, he said.
A declaration moved by B. Dayakar Rao, CEO-Nutrihub, Indian Institute of Millets Research, Hyderabad, highlighted the need for value addition, environmental design plan and branding to revive millets in the State with a commercial angle for millet cultivation. Dr. Rao said the State government should encourage adoption of millets in diets with the awareness about nutri-cereals for health and nutritional security.
The millet production would not only help the farmers in exporting the food crop but also would provide a rich source of nutrients to the State’s population, said the experts at the conclave. The State government is considering a proposal to include millets in the mid-day meals programme for schools and anganwadi centres.
The declaration favoured an enhancement in the yield of pearl millets and small millets and optimising the productivity in the regions lacking resources. It also called for increasing the area under cultivation to improve the farm incomes, while ensuring the procurement of millets at minimum support prices and promoting processing, value addition and consumption.
Raj Bhandari, member of Niti Aayog’s National Technical Board of Nutrition, was among the experts who addressed the convention. A major international event has also been planned in Jodhpur in September-end this year to highlight value addition and entrepreneurship development for the coarse grains.
The three-day event will be organised by advocacy groups Lok Samvad Sansthan and Rupayan Sansthan with the support of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Festival‘s secretary-general Kalyan Singh Kothari said the participants would deliberate on the strategies for bringing millets back to people’s lives for health, nutrition and food security and help strengthen Rajasthan’s position as the leader in pearl millet production.
Rajasthan has the largest area under pearl millet with the highest production in the country. The desert State occupies about 46 lakh-hectare area with average production of about 28 lakh tonnes and productivity of 400 kg per hectare. Millet is inter-cropped with legumes or sesame and is also grown as irrigated green fodder in summer.