It is a good turnaround to witness in the millet ecosystem. The production of millets, which were hardly seen on the menus till two decades ago, has been fast overtaken by the demand for these “nutri-cereals” or “Shree Anna” as they are referred to of late. “As of today, India requires 40 per cent more millets than what it produces now. There is a huge demand for the “nutri-cereals” thanks to the increased awareness,” B Dayakar Rao, CEO of IIMR-Nutri Hub, said.
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At a time when the world is looking at India for the export of millets, the country needs to find a way to expand the area to non-traditional areas to increase productionto meet the demand from domestic and international markets.
Addressing the fifth edition of the International Nutri Cereal Convention, which began here on Monday, he said the country produced about 20 million tonnes. “But the demand is so huge that we need to find non-traditional areas to grow millets,” he said.
“There had been a disconnect between production and consumption. Now that the country can achieve some connection through sustained efforts, the demand has gone up,” he said.
Citing reports of the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), he said the institute was pitching for the replacement of at least 30 per cent of the cereals with nutri-cereals on the regular menu of the citizens.
Focus on high-yielding varieties
The two-day convention, which attracted about 850 delegates from India and abroad, will deliberate on various aspects of the ecosystem and come out with a Hyderabad Declaration to take the millet movement well beyond 2023.
Delivering her keynote address, C Tara Satyavathi, Director of IIMR, spoke about the technologies to increase productivity and production of millets. “There has been a significant improvement in varieties and hybrids. As many as 262 varietal technologies have been released so far. We need to focus on releasing high-yielding varieties,” she said.
DJ Yadava, Additional Director General (Seeds) of Indian Council of Agricultural Research, (ICAR), said there had been a tremendous improvement in yield and availability of varieties. “For the nine varieties of millets, we have over 220 different varieties. The availability of seeds too has gone up significantly over the years. From about 4.5 lakh tonnes(lt) a year till a few years ago, we have reached a capacity of 8 lt now. We can ramp up the production as the demand for millets goes up,” he said.
Suresh Kumar Chaudhari, Deputy Director General (ICAR-National Resource Management), however, called for a focussed approach rather than promoting all millets in all areas. “We need to map the hotspots and promote the relevant millets,” he said.