About 90,000 students in the Keonjhar and Sundergarh districts of Odisha get two ragi ladoos every week. The State government is going to extend this scheme to another 60,000 students by January 2021.

In a pilot project in anganwadi centres of the Vikarabad district of Telangana, children are also being given millet food. The State is planning to extend this facility to all the 32,000 anganwadi centres in phases.

The idea behind both these schemes is to introduce millet foods to children so they acquire a taste for them early.

Divya Devarajan of Women and Child Welfare Development of Telangana says people acquire food habits early in life.

“When I was the District Collector of Vikarabad we launched a pilot introducing millet foods at anganwadis . We made stakeholders such as mothers and farmers a part of the discourse,” she said.

Now, Telangana’s ‘Chinnarulaku Chiru Dhanyalu’ (Millets for kids) programme has got the stamp of approval from mothers’ committees, while the National Institute of Nutrition has ratified the recipes.

Divya and Saurabh Garg, Principal Secretary (Agriculture, Odisha) made presentations during the day-long webinar on ‘Positioning of Millets for Emerging Nutrition Markets’ conducted by the Indian Institute of Millets Research on Monday.

Tap the opportunity

India grows millets in 1.46 crore hectares and produces 1.25 crore tonnes of different millets. Though it constitutes one-fifth of global millet acreage, it contributes one-eight of global millet production. The yield in India, at 857 kg per hectare, is very low when compared to the global average of 1,230 kg per hectare.

The IIMR is preparing a white paper on the state of millet ecosystem, challenges and opportunities in the country shortly.

Odisha is among the few States that began to offer millets through the public distribution system. “As many as 50 lakh households in 76 blocks in 14 districts are being offered 1 kg of ragi through PDS,” he said.

Saurabh said the State had drawn plans to promote the consumption of millets. “Recipes are being prepared to suit the local culture and eating habits,” he said.

“We are training home cooks and working with bakeries and prominent sweetshops in making palatable millet foods, sweets and snacks,” he said.

The State is planning to set up 15 quick service restaurants in association with women self-help groups. “Retail kiosks will be set up in towns and cities,” he said.