Vishwanath Patil, 82, spent his childhood in millet fields as his parents grew ragi and jowar in remote Bidar (Karnataka) villages. But over a period of time, he witnessed gradual disappearance of millets both in the fields and on the menu.
“Millets have fallen from the grace. As I crossed 80, I notice disappearance of millets. We need to do something to bring millets back on the agenda. It will be disastrous for us, if we allow millets to go into oblivion,” Vishwanath has said.
Giving a ‘Peasant View of Millets’ at the national convention here on Thursday, he said the youth in the villages had lost touch with millets because of the domination of rice and wheat in the public distribution system. “In order to increase interest in the food crops that are relevant for countries like us, we need to include millets in the public food systems. It helps us achieve food and nutritional securities,” he said.
78-year-old S Malla Reddy, Vice-President of All-India Kisan Sabha, echoed this view. He said that the seed firms were not interested in promoting millets as it would hurt their hybrid seed business. The governments too were not supportive.
“The cost of seed in a farmer’s budget is very small in case of millets. But they would have to spend up to 10 per cent on seeds in case farmers choose to grow crops such as cotton. Besides, spending on pesticides and fertilisers too would be minimal for millet farmers,” he said.
Nimmaiah, a farmer from Nalgonda district, had said that millets gave minimum returns even in worst drought conditions. “In some pockets of Nalgonda where they grew, farmers were able to reap 50 per cent of the produce despite the fact that monsoon failed this year,” he said.
“Most farmers used to grow millets about 30 years ago but gave in to commercial crops such as cotton that is not suited for the region. They ended up in huge losses,” he felt.
The two-day convention was organised by the Millet network of India (MINI) and Centre for Economic and Social Studies.