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Millet champions urge Govt of India to launch National Millet Mission
Thursday, 19 April, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, Mumbai
The Millets, Monsoon and Market dialogue came to a close with global millet champions calling for the Government of India to launch a National Millet Mission, especially since 2018 is the National Year of Millets.

The international and national experts raised pertinent points flagging issues related to production, procurement, processing, marketing and consumption of millets in India while drawing from global success stories like quinoa, and many initiatives for ragi (finger millet) and foxtail millet already in progress in India.

International support for millet-based diets have been promoted to a large extent by Bioversity International (Rome) and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), both emphasising the importance for speeding up for effective nutrition security.

Stefano Padulosi, senior scientist, Bioversity International, said, “Setting up a nationwide millet committee would create an enabling environment for multi-sector stakeholders to share experiences, and become a platform of cross-learning opportunities.”

Dr Lalita Bhattacharjee, senior nutritionist, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Bangladesh, highlighted the serious need for consistent measurements of diet diversity and a strategy for convincing messages that would bring public awareness on the nutritional benefits of consuming millets.

Efforts made by the state government of Odisha to enhance the production, procurement and consumption of millets were shared by Saurabh Garg, principal secretary, Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment, Government of Odisha.

Reiterating that policy support is a key factor to achieving successes in the state of Odisha, he said, “Policy support in the form of minimum support price (MSP) helped to propel the millet initiatives taken up of the Department of Agriculture.”  

Vilas Tonapi, director, ICAR–Indian Institute of Millets Research, presented an encouraging picture of policy support for millets in India.

He said, “The government of India is already preparing to launch a millet policy that covers all areas of concern related to production, procurement, processing, consumption and distribution of millets in India.”

He added, “The future of policy for millets has included every aspect, all departments – the Women and Child, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Mid-Day Meal (MDM), public distribution system (PDS) and farmer communities while drafting the strategy.”

The involvement of grassroots actors (farmer communities) was stressed throughout the dialogue.

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics’ (ICRISAT) chief operating officer of the NutriPlus Knowledge programme of the agribusiness innovation platform highlighted the role importance and role agri-food value chains for millets to be the smart food of the future.

While Nitya Rao, gender cross-cut lead, Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA), and professor, East Anglia University, brought the gender dimension to the policy discussion shinning the spotlight on drudgery of labour involved in growing and processing millets that is primarily borne by the women from the farmer communities and the fact that this goes unrecognised and unrewarded with no wages.

Dinesh Balam from WASSAN, with the revitalising rain-fed agriculture network, warned of missing out on the needs of small and marginal farmers (the majority of Indian farmers) in India while drafting a macro-level strategy for millets in India.

He said, “Logistics is a huge gap between demand and supply, and logistics research is the need of the hour for the Millets Mission to be successful on the ground and across the country.”  

Closing the conference, M S Swaminathan, founder chairman, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), said, “The human dimension should be brought back into millet cultivation, and revitalising the climate-smart cereals should be a high priority for the government of India to ensure strategic movement forward to addressing nutrition insecurity in the country.”
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