“The government would like to promote millets from this year onwards. This year has been declared as year of millets. Over a decade or so, the area under millets has been declining and it currently stands at 16 million hectares,” said Ashok Dalwai, CEO of National Rainfed Area Authority of India, who heads a committee on preparing a roadmap for millets.
The plan is to utilise funds available under the National Food Security Mission, which are in the excess of ₹300 crore, to increase productivity and expand area under millets. The productivity of millets has been going up, but only marginally.
Now that the Centre has announced that it will increase the minimum support price to one and half times of cost of production, millet growers are expected to benefit. More importantly, procurement is going to be strengthened in millets soon, Dalwai said.
“The government is soon to come out with a new procurement policy on which NITI Aayog has been having consultations with State governments. This is not just for millets, but also for other agricultural commodities,” he said.
Creating a demand
“Learning from our experiences from other crops, we need to create a demand for millet-based products. The market-led approach would be the best approach for its promotion. This can be done by highlighting the nutritional benefits offered by millets. That will be the major difference in our promotion of millets vis-à-vis wheat and paddy. In wheat and paddy it was just the opposite; it was done by simply increasing the supply,” Dalwai said.
The government plans to organise roadshows across the country to highlight the benefits of millets. The tagline for the campaign, he said, is going to be “Good for consumers, Good for farmers and Good for planet.’
Focus on pulse, oilseeds too
According to Dalwai, the government is focussing on a two-pronged approach — market reforms and assured procurement. Market reforms, he said, is more critical as it would lead commodities to market price discovery, which is their true value.
As per the government plan, more focus in coming years would be on three types of crops: pulses, oilseeds and millets. While the focussed work on pulses has already shown results, a similar mission mode approach is being extended to oilseeds and millets as well.