Increasing India’s food, nutritional and economic security by reviving millets

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Increasing India’s food, nutritional and economic security by reviving millets

Read the full article in financialexpress.com by Tomio Shichiri

The main challenge in reviving millets as to meet the unique needs of India is to increase awareness on the multiple benefits of millets and get the public to accept millets and its taste.

About five decades ago millets was a major grain consumed in India and several other countries. However, the plate share of millets has dwindled alarmingly in favour of wheat, rice and processed food according to the 2014 National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) report. Therefore, with more land being utilized for cultivation of wheat and rice, the cultivation area for millets has also shrunk since 1956 by 58% for small millets, 64% for sorghum, 49% for finger millet and 23% for pearl millet.

With the growing problem of malnutrition in India, under-nutrition (deficiencies of vitamins, mineral and proteins) as well as over-nutrition (obesity, metabolic syndrome and lifestyle diseases), there is an increased awareness to shift to healthier, accessible and affordable diets including millets. Millets are nutri-dense and are a rich source of protein, essential fatty acids, dietary fibre, vitamin B and naturally gluten-free.

Millets also help prevent many non-communicable lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, nutri-dense foodgrain such as millets is viable option/solution to reduce the adverse effects of rising malnutrition and enhancing food and nutrition security of the country.

Additionally, millets are climate and drought resilient-crops that can grow easily in adverse climatic conditions with few inputs. This way, increased consumption of millets can also assure the economic security of the farmer/producer. “The |Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) along with the Government are working together to promote crop genetic diversity, including indigenous crops to conserve India’s rich biodiversity. This is done by working with smallholder farmers, including women to strengthen their role as agrobiodiversity diversity guardians,” said Mr Tomio Shichiri, the Country Director of FAO in India.

The main challenge in reviving millets as to meet the unique needs of India is to increase awareness on the multiple benefits of millets and get the public to accept millets and its taste. To bring about a larger effect it will be imperative to bring the stakeholders (producer and consumer) in the entire millet value chain to a common platform and understanding. There is progress made to this end.

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Posted on

October 25, 2019

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