The Centre has estimated the millet procurement in the country to move up from current 6-7 lakh tonnes (lt) to 40-50 lt in the next few years. The nine states have launched separate mission with assured procurement and distribution of the nutri-cereals at subsidised rates.

Highlighting that Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu and Odisha have launched their own programmes to procure millets and distribute those nutri-cereals within their respective state, Subodh Kumar Singh, additional secretary in the Food Ministry, said that the Centre has urged all the states, including Rajasthan, the biggest producer of bajra and second-largest in jowar, to start focusing on procurement of the grains.

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He said Karnataka has set a target to procure 6-7 lt of nutri-cereals, including 5 lt of ragi in 2022-23 season (October-September). “Though we had set a target to procure 13.5 lt of coarse and nutri-cereals, the purchase can be around 9.5 lt as maize prices are above minimum support price (MSP),” Singh said.

If 10 lt is added every year in procurement, the purchases may increase to 40-50 lt in next few years, Singh said.

As the current policy of the Centre puts the responsibility on the states for distribution of coarse and nutri cereals, unlike wheat and rice, the procurement under Central Pool never took off with low demand from consumers. However, with increased campaign about the nutritious value of coarse grains, there has been some increase in demand resulting in many start ups producing valued added products (VAPs).

Currently, the Centre allows procurement of maize, jowar, bajra and ragi under coarse cereals, which was sold at ₹1/kg before the government recently declared free distribution of grains under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013.

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“The food and agriculture ministries are discussing on the possibilities of bringing small millets (as many as 12-13 local varieties) grown in different states under MSP programme,” Singh said. He also pointed out that despite persuasions, Rajasthan has not started procurement of coarse grains.

Shoots of growth

Meanwhile, the Centre also said that they have paid ₹85,604 crore in 2021-22 (in MSP value) to wheat farmers, an increase of 153 per cent from ₹33,847 crore in 2013-14. Similarly, increase in MSP value in paddy was over 165 per cent to ₹1,69,736 crore in 2021-22 from ₹63,928 crore in 2013-14 due to rise in quantity of procurement as well as in MSP.