Millet cultivation to get boost in Kerala

India too is keen to position itself as the global hub for millet.

Published: 26th January 2023 06:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th January 2023 06:17 AM   |  A+A-

Nanchamma in the millet field at Attapadi in Palakkad

Express News Service

KOCHI: Millets, or small-grained cereals, are making a comeback on dining tables in Kerala. However, when it comes to its production, the state is nowhere in the picture. Only 0.03 lakh hectares of land is under millet cultivation in the state and the production stands at 0.02 lakh tonnes, roughly 626kg per hectare. This had long left consumers here to depend on the neighbouring states to meet their requirements.

However, the recent surge in demand has the state government mulling steps to increase the acreage under cultivation to 3,500 hectares. Of this, 3,000 hectares will be in Attapadi tribal belt, while the remaining 500 hectares will be divided among the other 13 districts. “A project proposal in this regard has been submitted to the central government,” said Latha R, assistant director of the agriculture department at Attapadi.

India too is keen to position itself as the global hub for millet. Following its proposal, the United Nations declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets. The state government has submitted the project proposal under this aegis.

“The aim is to bring the fallow land in many parts of the state under millet cultivation. History tells us that millet cultivation was prominent in the tribal areas until the recent past. They did so for their own consumption. However, the introduction of rice swayed them away from their once-staple diet,” Latha said.

“Until the mid-twentieth century, millets used to be cultivated in the state. Millets like Chama, Thina and Ragi enjoyed a status equivalent to rice. However, all that stopped following the green revolution that brought in high-yielding varieties of rice, said M M Abbas, the founder of Organic Kerala Charitable Trust.

“But that is changing,” he added. “The realisation that millets are the answer to many health issues caused by rice and wheat products is making people turn to them. But the cultivation of millets is negligible in the state and so when it comes to price, it becomes unaffordable.”

Latha concurs. “However, the farmers in the neighbouring states get a very low procuring price, sometimes as low as Rs 25 per kg. Many people have also approached us to procure the millets grown in the tribal hamlets of Attapadi. They want us to reduce the price to Rs 20 per kg. But that is not a fair price. We have fixed a rate of Rs 60 per kg as the procurement price,” Latha said. “It should also be noted that a lot of costs are incurred during its cultivation. Besides, processing two kilograms of millets will only yield one kilogram,” she added.

“Cultivating millets is possible all over the state,” said Abbas. “It can be grown as an additional crop intermittently with vegetables.” According to him, these are hardy crops that don’t require a lot of care like rice and wheat. However, Latha pointed out that where the farmers will face a problem is during its processing. At present, there is only one processing unit in the state and that is located in Attapadi.

“But it is possible to cultivate Ragi. It requires no processing and can be used as such,” Latha said. Meanwhile, the Organic Kerala Charitable Trust is organising a programme to promote millets as part of the International Year of Millets project on Thursday at POC Hall near Palarivattom.


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