Krishna Ella is trying to remove GST from millets

One of the main people who helped India overcome the Covid pandemic with the help of the Covaxin vaccine, Krishna Ella, chairman of Bharat Biotech, had a different look at the millet conclave. “The government should remove  GST (goods and services tax) from mills so that everyone joins the mission of mills (products),” he said in a conversation with Richa Mishra, Senior Assistant, Business. His opinion was supported by C Tara Sathyavathi, director, Indian Institute of Millets Research – a center of excellence for millets. “If the demand for millets can increase rapidly, we can request the government to consider a GST exemption. Answering a question on promotion of millet marketing, Ella, who  owns Ella Foods, also said that the government and the private sector should come together.  

Small players 

  Those in millet are small players who cannot support themselves. For example, if ITC Ltd produces a millet product and gets  GST exemption, everyone runs for the product,” he said in a session full of fun and humour. He said that NABARD should only intervene to abolish GST, he said, “When we ask someone like the Planning Commission (Niti Aayog), they  think  too much about numbers.”  Ella called for a holistic approach in solving the taxation of  millets. “Organizations like NABARD should consider things like 5 percent GST on packaged millets. Otherwise, the proposals will turn it into another piece of paper”.

 Consumer research 

 He called for a different way of thinking in millet marketing and said that NABARD should fund a survey on  millet preferences of consumers in the European Union and the United States. The survey needs to find out whether people need solid fiber or other things. “This will help Indian farmers to increase production and export,” he said. For the manufacturer of Covaxin, “the farmer is the best entrepreneur in the world”. “I come from a farming family. We must learn from him. It seems that for every ₹100 spent, she earns ₹120,” said Ella.  Asked if he plans to start a Covaxin-like process for millet, the Bharat Biotech chief said: “I don’t mind losing money. I’m actually looking for ideas.” 

 Gluten free 

 One idea is to launch gluten-free millet products. “Can we start with high fiber and gluten free products? May we suggest nutrition bars or another product? We should bring food science into nutrition,” he said, adding that he didn’t want to start it all. Ella said that millet manufacturers could look at the welfare aspect and offer millet flour chips to the younger generation. “It’s about looking for ideas, mixing them up and making them tasty for kids. We have to think strategically so they can eat every day,” he said. “Academics, industry, policymakers and  government are coming together to promote millet. Let’s let America eat our millet”, adding that “we need to look at how millet is presented differently.” When asked what his daily diet is, he replied: “I eat whatever the chef gives me” Referring to a presentation  made to former president Pratibha Patil, he said he emphasized the need for dry farming. 

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