BENGALURU: Karnataka's push for global recognition of millets got a big boost with the United Nations General Assembly adopting a resolution earlier this week -- initiated by India and other countries -- to declare 2023 as the International Year of Millets. This could give an impetus to Agriculture Minister B C Patil's suggestion to the state government to include millets in the mid-day meal for schools, and to distribute them in anganwadis to combat malnutrition.
Karnataka has a long history of growing millets, and Byatarayanapura MLA Krishna Byregowda had made a case for its promotion both at the Centre and in the state during his tenure as agriculture minister. His efforts led the Centre to declare 2018 as the National Year of Millets. "We are a pioneer in initiating this and are happy that the UN has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets," Byregowda told TNSE.
Byregowda had also launched the Raitha Siri scheme, under which the Karnataka government would give Rs 10,000 per hectare to millet farmers. He also pushed for international recognition for millets at the Food and Agriculture Organisation on an official visit to Rome, where he was invited to speak on Karnataka's experience of millet cultivation.
"For many years, millets were part of our daily diet. It is only in the past 30-40 years that we began adopting polished rice. But now, due to lifestyle diseases and an increase in diabetes, millets will act as a preventive measure," Krishna Byregowda said. He said there must be a demand for millets in order for farmers to take up their cultivation. "For this, both the State and Central government must create awareness by organising trade fairs. If we take advantage of the UN's declaration, it will be a big boost (to millet cultivation). We need to start preparing right now," he said.
Karnataka has seen over 16 drought years in the past two decades. The advantage of growing millets is that they require less water and are suitable for arid regions. Input cost is low and it is good as fodder. However, the government must encourage companies to set up processing units for millets to help farmers, said a senior agriculture department official.
A B Patil, technical adviser to the agriculture minister and former registrar of the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru, said that millets are rich in fibre, iron, vitamins and minerals, that keep the body healthy. They can also boost serotonin levels in the body and help mitigate depression. "The poor man's diet has now become the rich man's diet. Millets are available in star hotels. In Bengaluru alone, more than 400 outlets serve millet dishes,'' he said.
Area under millets cultivation in state
- Ragi 6,73,713*
- Jowar 9,13,988
- Pearl millet 3,28,048
- Foxtail millet 37,141
- Little millet 15,240