Millet Sisters want to buy traditional cereals from MSP

Millets may be the flavor of the year on the Indian table, but domestically they face challenges and are losing out to the commercial crop. Suryakala, a 45-year-old farmer in Sangareddy’s Metlakunta village, describes this paradox well. “In our villages, many small farmers  want to grow millets, pulses and  old crops, because they are the most suitable crops for these lands. But they are switching to the commercial crop because of subsidies and MSP”, he says.  

 Out of  nine millets grown in the country, only three – jowar, Bajara, Ragi – get MSP (minimum support price). Suryakala is part of the All India Millet Sisters network, which gathered at the headquarters of the Deccan Development Society (DDS) in Pastapur, 120 km from Hyderabad, over the weekend  to discuss the state of millet cultivation. For more than 40 years, DDS has led millet cultivation through community participation, led exclusively by smallholders. “Currently, we ensure that we grow millets for home consumption, but the government should fix the MSP for all  millets and buy the surplus from us. They should distribute these grains in our anganwadi, schools and PDS so that people can eat them”.

 Swaroopa, a farmer from Yadadri village, comes to know about it. “Our crops (millet) are good for people, environment and livestock. However, the government only provides insurance, subsidies and procurement for commercial crops that use too much water and rely on harmful pesticides.    

A harvest of inheritance

  At the end of the day’s meeting, the Telangana Millet Sisters,  part of the national network, presented a charter of demands. They want the state and central governments to recognize millet as a heritage site and take steps to revive it.  They also called for the revival of local landraces instead of cultivating hybrid seeds. “We need to create a chain of community seed banks that will ensure that  control of the seeds remains with the farmers”, “The ecosystem services provided by millets and mixed farms following traditional organic farming practices should be recognized and rewarded with an incentive  of ₹ 10,000 per cropping season to promote such cultivation”. “The government should extend insurance cover to millets because they are susceptible to non-climatic risks caused by birds and animals”, they argue. Will their demands be met?

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