Karnataka, a large producer of millets such as ragi, jowar, bajra and foxtail, is spearheading an initiative to place these nutrient-rich cereals on the global food plate.
The State is organising an international event in Bengaluru in January to attract interest in millets. This is even as Indian consumers are seen increasingly attracted to global ‘super foods’ such as quinoa and chia seeds.
“We are continuing with our awareness campaign on millets and plan to take it to a larger platform soon,” said Karnataka Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda, on the proposed event. The State had organised a national meet in April, seeking to create demand on the basis of the health and nutritional benefits of millets and organic produce.Plea to FAO
On the policy side, Gowda recently met senior officials of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome and pushed for including millets as part of the UN agency’s advocacy campaign.
“We have made a strong pitch to the FAO to include millets in its advocacy not only on health and nutrition grounds, but also as part of sustainable agriculture,” he said.
A team led by the Union Food Secretary had also made a case with the FAO to have an International Year for Millets, Gowda said.
Talking about the upcoming event, he said the idea is to create awareness that will help expand both domestic and export markets for millets, which eventually will benefit farmers.
Karnataka has already reached out to various stakeholders, such as the trade, companies and the research community in the US and Europe, from where it expects some participation.
“We will soon be sending a team of officials to West Asia,” he said.
Though millets such as ragi and foxtail have seen a new-found demand in recent years with health-conscious consumers waking up to their nutritional benefits as lifestyle diseases rise, the production of such nutri-cereals has witnessed a volatile trend.
These cereals have been losing ground over the years as farmers have been switching over to cash crops such as cotton and maize.
As per the first advance estimates, the production of small millets this year is seen declining further to 0.33 million tonnes from last year’s 0.34 mt and a decade high of 0.55 mt in 2007-08.
Similarly, the production of ragi is seen dropping to 1.61 million tonnes this year.
Interestingly, farmers in Karnataka have doubled acreage to around 40,000 hectares under minor millets such as foxtail and proso.