HYDERABAD: Millets, the staple grain of many in south India earlier, may get a facelift soon. The drought-resistant, nutrient-rich cereal, is being rebranded through a multi-institutional effort by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR) and private companies to attract urban consumers and raise revenue for millet farmers in the southern states.
ICRISAT, which formally made finger millets their ‘mandate crop’ last year, sees reason to partner with universities and industry to increase the cereal’s demand and tap new markets.
According to ICRISAT Director General David Bergvinson, finger-millets are a ‘triple win’ because of the opportunity they provide to farmers to diversify their income, their sustainability as a climate-smart crop, and their ability to improve household-level diets. Speaking about popularising millets through product development, Karnataka agriculture minister Krishna Byre Gowda avowed that the state, which produces more than 60 per cent of the country’s millets, is committed to the objecive.
“We want to sustain and expand production by developing non-conventional markets for millets. The idea is to get private sector parners in this effort,” he said. Referring to the increased popularity of quineoa, a grain crop grown in the Andean regions of South America, Gowda said that rebranding ragi for urban-minded people has the power to transform unhealthy diets.
‘’We have to transform the idea of millets being a poor man’s crop in the consumer’s mind,” said Dayakar Rao, principal scientist at the Indian Institute of Millets Research. Rao said that the move would help farmers.