From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Cereals producer states in India
Mains level : Paper 3- Encouraging cereals production in India to deal with the health issue
Promotion of millet crops serves the dual purpose of securing health and supporting farmers. This article explains the strategy adopted by the government to achieve the same.
Millet crops in India
- The three major millet crops currently growing in India are jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet) and ragi (finger millet).
- India also 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.
Advantages of millet cultivation
- Millets are good for the soil, have shorter cultivation cycles and require less cost-intensive cultivation.
- These unique features make millets suited for and resilient to India’s varied agro-climatic conditions.
- Millets are not water or input-intensive, making them a sustainable strategy for addressing climate change and building resilient agri-food systems.
Reasons for decline in millet production in India
- In the 1960s before the Green Revolution, millets were extensively grown and consumed in India.
- With the Green Revolution, the focus, rightly so, shifted to food security and high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice.
- An unintended consequence of this policy was the gradual decline in the production of millets.
- Millets were increasingly seen as “poor person’s food”.
- The cost incentives provided via MSPs also favoured a handful of staple grains.
Health issues related to refined food
- Along with declining millet production, India saw a jump in consumer demand for ultra-processed and ready-to-eat products, which are high in sodium, sugar, trans-fats and even some carcinogens.
- This demand was again met by highly-refined grains.
- With the intense marketing of processed foods, even the rural population started perceiving mill-processed rice and wheat as more aspirational.
- This has lead us to the double burden of mothers and children suffering from micronutrient deficiencies and the astounding prevalence of diabetes and obesity.
Strategy for promotion of 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.
Consider the question “What are the reasons for decline in the millet production in India? What are the steps taken by the government to encourage its production?”
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.