India pitches for declaring 2019 as ‘International Year of Millets’

The central and Karnataka governments want the declaration of an international year of millets to help spread the message on the richness of the foodgrains’ nutrients and health benefits across the world. A proposal in this regard has been submitted to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), an agency of the United Nations, Karnataka agriculture minister Krishna Byre Gowda said on Tuesday. Gowda, who participated in the FAO annual meeting earlier this month in Rome, said he along with the Union food secretary made a pitch in this regard. “We have made a collective pitch along with the Government of India that there should be an international year of millets so that the message of millets spreads to the entire world.

Efforts by government to promote millets:

In order to promote ‘millets’, India had on its part notified these climate resilient crops as “Nutri-Cereals” and allowed its inclusion in the Public Distribution System (PDS) for improving nutritional support in April.

Recognising millets’ anti-diabetic properties, the notification called it a “powerhouse of nutrients” and identified several varieties of millets for promotion. The millets in the category of “Nutri-Cereals” include Sorghum (Jowar), Pearl Millet (Bajra), Finger Millet (Ragi), Foxtail Millet (Kangani/Kakun) and Buckwheat (Kuttu) among others.

Besides, the government had in July substantially hiked the minimum support price (MSP) of millets so that more and more farmers may opt for the cultivation of these less water consuming crops.

Millet is a common term to categorize small-seeded grasses that are often termed nutri-cereals or dryland-cereals and includes sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, Kodo millet and other millets.

An important staple cereal crop for millions of smallholder dryland farmers across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, millets offer nutrition, resilience, income, and livelihood for farmers even in difficult times.

They have multiple untapped uses such as food, feed, fodder, biofuels, and brewing. Therefore, millets are Smart Food as they are Good for You, Good for the Farmer and Good for the Planet.

Nutritionally superior to wheat & rice owing to their higher levels of protein with a more balanced amino acid profile, crude fiber & minerals such as Iron, Zinc, and Phosphorous, millets can provide nutritional security and act as a shield against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women.

The anemia (iron deficiency), B-complex vitamin deficiency, pellagra (niacin deficiency) can be effectively tackled with intake of less expensive but nutritionally rich food grains like millets.

Millets can also help tackle health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and lifestyle problems as they are gluten-free, have a low glycemic index and are high in dietary fiber and antioxidants.

Adapted to low or no purchased inputs and to the harsh environment of the semi-arid tropics, they are the backbone for dryland agriculture.

Photo-insensitive & resilient to climate change, millets are hardy, resilient crops that have a low carbon and water footprint, can withstand high temperatures and grow on poor soils with little or no external inputs. In times of climate change, they are often the last crop standing and, thus, are a good risk management strategy for resource-poor marginal farmers

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