From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : examples of nutri-cereals
Mains level : climate resilient agriculture
- Government push to coarse cereals as climate change affects wheat, paddy cultivation
- Millets are a group of highly variable small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains for human food and as fodder.
Features Millet crops in India
- Big three: The three major millet crops currently growing in India are jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet) and ragi (finger millet).
- Examples: India also grows a rich array of bio-genetically diverse and indigenous varieties of “small millets” like kodo, kutki, chenna and sanwa.
- Area of production: Major producers include Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana.
What are Advantages of millet cultivation?
- Low input cost: cereals are good for the soil, have shorter cultivation cycles and require less cost-intensive cultivation.
- Climate resilience: These unique features make millets suited for and resilient to India’s varied agro-climatic conditions.
- Drought tolerance: cereals are not water or input-intensive, making them a sustainable strategy for addressing climate change and building resilient agri-food systems.
Reduction in millet production
- Effects of Green Revolution: The Green Revolution succeeded in making India food sufficient, however, it also led to water-logging, soil erosion, groundwater depletion and the unsustainability of agriculture.
- Deficit mind-set: Current policies are still based on the “deficit” mind-set of the 1960s.
- Biased policies: The procurement, subsidies and water policies are biased towards rice and wheat.
- Skewed cropping pattern: Three crops (rice, wheat and sugarcane) corner 75 to 80 per cent of irrigated water.
- Lack of diversification: Diversification of cropping patterns towards cereals, pulses, oilseeds, horticulture is needed for more equal distribution of water, sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture.
What can be done to promote millets as nutri-cereals?
1) Rebranding the cereals as nutri-cereals
- The first strategy from a consumption and trade point of view was to re-brand coarse cereals/millets as nutri-cereals.
- As of 2018-19, millet production had been extended to over 112 districts across 14 states.
2) Incentive through hiking MSP
- Second, the government hiked the MSP of nutri-cereals, which came as a big price incentive for farmers.
- From 2014-15 to 2020 MSPs for ragi has jumped by 113 per cent, by 72 per cent for bajra and by 71 per cent for jowar.
- MSPs have been calculated so that the farmer is ensured at least a 50 per cent return on their cost of production.
3) Providing steady markets through inclusion in PDS
- To provide a steady market for the produce, the Modi government included millets in the public distribution system.
4) Increasing area, production and yield
- The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare is running a Rs 600-crore scheme to increase the area, production and yield of nutri-cereals.
- With a goal to match the cultivation of nutri-cereals with local topography and natural resources, the government is encouraging farmers to align their local cropping patterns to India’s diverse 127 agro-climatic zones.
- Provision of seed kits and inputs to farmers, building value chains through Farmer Producer Organisations and supporting the marketability of nutri-cereals are some of the key interventions that have been put in place.
5) Intersection of agriculture and nutrition
- The Ministry of Women and Child Development has been working at the intersection of agriculture and nutrition by -1) setting up nutri-gardens, 2) promoting research on the interlinkages between crop diversity and dietary diversity 3) running a behaviour change campaign to generate consumer demand for nutri-cereals.
- India should aim for a food systems transformation, which can be inclusive and sustainable, ensure growing farm incomes and nutrition security. As the government sets to achieve its agenda of a malnutrition-free India and doubling of farmers’ incomes, the promotion of the production and consumption of nutri-cereals seems to be a policy shift in the right direction.
Q. Promotion of millet crops serves the dual purpose of securing health and supporting farmers. Elucidate.