Read full article by A Amarender Reddy @ The Tribune Photo Credit: FAO
Millets are grown mostly on drylands, where other crops cannot be grown. They can survive even under extreme drought conditions. However, the average yield of millets is 1,111 kg per hectare, far less than 2,600 kg for paddy and 3,500 kg for wheat. There is a need for the development and wider adoption of high-yielding varieties. Research shows that even one irrigation at the critical growth stage doubles the yield of millets. Hence, incentives have to be provided to give critical irrigation.
THE United Nations recently declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets, considering the crops’ nutritional qualities, resilience to climate change and their potential to alleviate poverty among farmers in drought-prone areas. Millets are widely called nutri-cereals as they are richer in fibre, proteins, iron, copper, zinc, vitamins and other nutrients than other cereals like rice and wheat. There are about 300 millet species grown in the world, but about 12 are commonly used for human diet. Jowar and bajra are the major millets, whereas ragi, foxtail millet, barnyard millet, proso millet, kodo millet and little millet are the minor ones.
Asia and Africa together account for 97% of the global millet production of 29-30 million tonnes. India is a dominant player with around 40% of the global production. Historically, Asian and African population used to depend on millets like jowar, ragi and bajra for their staple food. However, with the advent of the Green Revolution and popularisation of high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat, these crops were relegated to a secondary status in both cultivation and use for human consumption. In the 1960s, the average annual per capita consumption of millets was 32.9 kg, roughly eight times what an urban Indian consumed (4.2 kg) in 2020.
But non-food use of millets increased significantly, especially as animal feed ingredients and as raw material in breweries and starch industries. According to estimates, about 60% of the millet production is for non-human consumption. Millets are also grown for use as fodder for cattle.