The Centre’s decision to designate the Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR) as a Centre of Excellence to make India a global hub is a welcome move. It can be a game-changing decision to promote the consumption of millets.
In its many avatars in the last 60 years, the institute has done phenomenal research in millets. It, in fact, played a crucial role in bringing millets back on the menus. The CoE must take the efforts to the next level. As it attempts to play a key role in the global ecosystem of millets, it must set its priorities right to cash in on the favourable atmosphere created at least in the urban areas.
Firstly, it must focus on increasing yields as the area under millets has either stagnated or reduced as cash crops continue to make gains.
That the percentage distribution of gross cropped area of ragi, an important millet crop, has come down to 0.48 in 2020 from 0.60 in 2014, while that of jowar reduced to 3.67 from 4.03 during the period. While we can’t arrest this trend, we must at least focus on increasing yields.
Similarly, we need to take concrete steps on the consumption side to make wider sections of the population benefit from the nutrition-rich millets. In order to do that, the Centre should encourage States to include millets in the Public Distribution System. Also, millets should find a place in the mid-day food programmes of schools. If students are not willing to take it as the main course, governments can consider giving them snacks made of millets. The good news is that IIMR has readied recipes, why even ready-to-eat products and technologies to produce them, that appeal to the taste buds of people of all ages.
Since it is also the International Year of Millets, we must make global efforts to promote the millet ecosystem. Roping in sports celebrities as brand ambassadors would be a good idea.