VIJAYAWADA: The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the demand for protein-rich foods and the foremost among them is millets. Once considered a poor man’s food, it is now evolving as a base for nutritional security for the country and even the world. In fact, the United Nations has declared 2023 the Year of Millets, which shows the importance of nutri crops.
In Andhra Pradesh, the area under cultivation of millets is increasing steadily every year. Experts describe it as a good development, which is no different from going back to one’s roots. It is time for the government to step in to ensure the sustainability of millets, so farmers are encouraged to take up millet cultivation without worrying about price fluctuations in the market. Compared to 0.11 lakh acres in Kharif 2020, jowar will be cultivated in 0.66 lakh acres this season. Bajra will be cultivated in 0.82 lakh acres as against 0.68 lakh acres in the last Kharif.
Paddy requires 1,200 mm of rain per season, millets need less than half, says expert
Minor millets, which were cultivated in only 0.38 lakh acres last Kharif, will be cultivated in 0.53 lakh acres this season, according to the agriculture department. CV Chandra Mohan Reddy, senior scientist in the Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS), Nandyal, said the reason for the emphasis on the cultivation of millets is climate change and future food security, with millet being an economically viable and less water-intensive crop. “Prior to the green revolution, our State, for that matter, the entire country used to have diverse crops, which were area-specific and in accordance with climatic conditions. The green revolution saw the focus shifted to wheat and rice. In our state it was rice. Farmers, who are more worried about getting the right price for their produce, took up paddy cultivation, though well aware that it was a water-guzzling crop,” he explained.
“Nothing is a better choice than millets, as they are power packs of nutrients, proteins and fibre. For this very reason, millets are called nutri crops,” he said. Compared to paddy, which requires 1,200 mm of rain (water) per season, millets need less than half that amount. According to Reddy, millets have a low Glycemic Index (GI) value, which is less than 50, while rice has a high GI value. The lower the GI of a specific food, the less it may affect your blood sugar level. “Consuming rice results in near-instant conversion to glucose, but millets are slow in that aspect. For this reason, doctors suggest diabetic patients to consume millets. Even those suffering from obesity are recommended the same,” he said.
There has been an increasing awareness among people about the benefits of millets and to meet the demand, an increasing number of convenient foods made from millets by different companies are hitting the market. “However, these will only help traders and not farmers. If we have to ensure a steady increase in the cultivation of millets, we have to make it a staple diet of people in a phased manner. Even one kg of millets supplied through the Public Distribution System (PDS) will make a large difference. At the same time, the government should ensure millet growers are protected from market fluctuations,” he said.
Reddy opined that encouraging farmers to cultivate millets by providing incentives like Karnataka (Rs10,000 is provided per acre) initially will help promote millet cultivation.
Different types of millets
- Jowar (Sorghum)
- Sajja/Bajra (Pearl millet)
- Ragi (Finger millet)
- Korra (Foxtail millet)
- Arika (Kodo millet)
- Samalu (Little millet)
- Varigalu (Proso millet)
- Udalu (Barnyard millet)
- Andu Korralu (Brown top millet)