Read full article By Susmita Moi@ Krishi Jagran Photo Credit: Krishijagran
Millets are one of the oldest foods which are small-seeded hardy crops that can grow well in dry zones or rain-fed areas under marginal conditions of soil fertility and moisture. Millets are cultivated in low-fertile land, rain-fed and mountainous areas. They are often referred to as super-food and its production can be seen as an approach for sustainable and a healthy world.
Multidimensional benefits associated with millets can address the issues related to nutrition security, food security, and farmers’ welfare. Moreover, many unique features linked with millets make them resilient to India’s varied agro-climatic conditions. According to FAO in 2018, India is the leading producer in the world followed by Niger and China. In India, Rajasthan is leading among millet-producing states followed by Maharashtra and Gujarat (Adekunle et al., 2018). Citing these factors, the year 2018 has already been declared as the National Year of Millets and India has called for declaring 2023 as the “International Year of Millets”. However, in spite of acknowledging their significance as a super-food, the general perception is that the millets are increasingly seen as “poor person’s food”. Therefore, it is necessary to re-brand coarse cereals/millets as nutri-cereals and promote their production and consumption.
Millets Production in India:
The three major millet crops currently grown in India are jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet) and ragi (finger millet). Along with that, India grows a rich array of bio-genetically diverse and indigenous varieties of “small millets” like kodo, kutki, chenna and sanwa.
Major producers include Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana.
Importance of Millets:
According to the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, in 2016- 17, the area under the cultivation of millet declined with 60% less coverage area (14.72 million hectares) due to change in consumption pattern, conversion of irrigated area for wheat and rice cultivation, unavailability of millets, low yield, dietary habits, less demand. This resulted in fall in the level of nutrients like vitamin-A, protein, iron and iodine in women and children leading to malnutrition.
Millets are rich sources of minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. It also contains appreciable amounts of dietary fibre and vitamins such as folic acid, vitamin B6, β- Carotene, and niacin. The availability of high amounts of lecithin is useful for strengthening the nervous system. Therefore, regular consumption of millets can help to overcome malnutrition.
Millets are rich in phytochemicals like tannins, phytosterols, polyphenols and antioxidants; they do contain some anti-nutritional factors which can be reduced by certain processing treatments.
Millets have a wide capacity for adaptation because they can grow from coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh to moderately high altitudes of North-eastern states and hilly regions of Uttarakhand. Millets can withstand variations in moisture, temperature and the type of soils ranging from heavy to sandy infertile lands.