BENGALURU: Ragi that had taken a backseat in urban areas is back in demand. In just two years, the area covered under the millet in the state has increased and production has doubled. With the State Government planning to introduce ragi under the Public Distribution System from May this year, the demand is expected to increase further.
In the state, Ragi is grown in Bengaluru Rural, Bengaluru Urban, Chikkaballapur, Chitradurga, Chikkamagaluru, Hassan, Kolar, Mandya, Ramanagara, Tumkur, Ballari and Davangere districts. In 2018-19, ragi was sown in 5.55 lakh hectares, in 2019-20, it was in 6.74 lakh hectares and last year, it increased to 7.08 lakh hectares. The production, which was 6.78 lakh tonnes in 2018-19 shot up to 11 lakh tonnes in 2020-21 and this year, it is close to 13 lakh tonnes.
Sources in the state agriculture department said there has been an increase in demand for ragi over the last few years. The pandemic came as a blessing last year with many people from cities returning to their hometowns in rural areas. The majority of them went back to farming, increasing the area under cultivation. Good rains this year too boosted the production.
Food and Civil Supplies Minister Umesh Katti told The New Sunday Express that they were planning to distribute ragi to PDS beneficiaries from April, but had to delay it because of the by-elections. “Starting May, we will distribute 3 kg ragi and 2 kg rice per person in the Old Mysuru region, where ragi is a staple. For this, we need 6.5 lakh tonnes per year. We have got the Union Government’s approval for the scheme,” he said.
There demand for this healthy millet in the international market too. Prof M B Rajegowda, an Agrometeorologist, who was earlier with the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), said ragi is sold for $1.25 to $1.5 per kilo in the United States, which comes to around Rs 100 per kilo. But in Karnataka, it is sold for Rs 30 to Rs 35 per kilo. The State Government is helping farmers with quality testing, allowing its increased export. “People have realised the value of ragi and there is a potential for its sales to grow,” he added.