NABARD Business Line Millets Conclave 2023. Consumers should be aware of affordability of millets

The need to create awareness about millet production and consumption is the need of the hour, said speakers at a panel discussion on ‘Millets for food security’ at the Millets Conclave 2023 organized by Nabard and the business sector on Friday.  APEDA and TrooGood are co-partners of the event and NewsX is the TV partner. 

 Responding to a question about the affordability of millets to the common consumer, ED Israel Oliver King, Head of Biodiversity, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), said that people are asking about  affordability from a mainstream perspective. Consumers have depended on rice, wheat and to some extent corn for the past three decades. He noted that millet can command a higher price in the market, but he said it cannot be compared to other crops. Elaborating on his views, he said that after processing small millets, the recovery is around 55-60 percent. Now, with R&D innovations in the pipeline, it has risen to 70 percent. Therefore, many entrepreneurs set it on the higher side because they have to pay the processing costs. In such a situation, according to him, it is necessary to raise the awareness of consumers about millet.

 Distributed manufacturing 

  A couple of entrepreneurs invented millets, he said, adding that they were innovative.  The scale  of paddy and wheat production is also huge. Millet production is decentralized and its cultivation requires a special agroecology. In addition, transportation and other additional costs from remote locations to consumption centers have an impact. The purpose of the research is  to exploit the untapped potential of millets, he said that while expanding millet cultivation, it is important to be aware of the local ecology and local seed varieties. He said MSSRF identifies farmers who are ready to farm, innovate and share. It  also documents the order and system of pruning. The foundation uses participatory  technology assessment to increase production.  MSSRF, together with FAO, conducted a survey of 3,000 farmers across Asia. All of them said that the millets were forgotten. Now the Global Forgotten Food Manifesto has helped revive forgotten foods in millet and it helps develop skills. 

 132 FPOs per millet 

 B Uday Bhaskar, Director General of Nabard said that Nabard has promoted 132 FPOs (Farmer Producer Organizations) exclusively  in the field of millets in 14 states of India. Nabard has so far promoted about 7000 FPOs in various agricultural products. Calling FPO  a critical link in the millet value chain, he highlighted examples of the important role of millet FPO in the millet value chain.  

He said Nabard has also implemented various natural resource management programmes, especially for watershed and tribal livelihood development, covering 2 lakh hectares under millets. Adding that the area under millet has decreased since independence, he said it would now  become a key crop in terms of food security. Citing an example of Nabard’s efforts to increase cultivation in Assam, he said that millet cultivation is integrated with other crops mainly in wastelands. Unlike rice, millet is not a water-intensive crop, he said. It takes about 5,000 liters of water  to produce 1 kilogram of rice. However, it only takes 200-300 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of millet. 

 Amazing catch 

   Saraswathi Malluvalasa, Managing Director, Arogya Millets Producer Co Ltd, explained the twenty-year journey of millet FPO, although villages are  food hubs, there was no food security in the early years in rural areas. Calling millets a wonderful plant, he said the way they are grown in the fields supports the biodiversity farming model. Mentioning that  millet seeds were not available when he started working 20 years ago, he said that in the first three years, 10 farmers’ clubs were established with only millet farming communities. At the level of individual farmers, their own seed banks were developed. “Now our village nurses have extra millet seeds in the villages.

 Later, a consumption campaign was started when the knowledge of its importance disappeared from people’s minds. In 2016, the establishment of Aarogya Millet Producer Company Limited was started with the support of Nabard. Originally 200 members, now 1430 members. On the role of millet nurses, he said that millet provides five guarantees – food, nutrition, health, fodder and environment. The thousands of nurses have now gained financial security by the thousands, adding that about 200 women have been trained as entrepreneurs at the grassroots level.

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