Unanimous calling for Government of India to launch a National Millet Mission

The ‘Millets, Monsoon and Market’ dialogue came to close today with global ‘Millet Champions’ calling for the Government of India to launch a National Millet Mission, especially since 2018 is the National Year of Millets.

The international and national experts raised pertinent points flagging issues related to production, procurement, processing, marketing and consumption of Millets in India while drawing from global success stories like the Quinoa, and many initiatives for Ragi (Finger Millet) and Foxtail Millet already in progress in India.

International support for Millet-based diets have been promoted to a large extent by Bioversity International (Rome) and UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), both emphasizing the importance for speeding up for effective nutrition security. Dr Stefano Padulosi, Senior Scientist from Bioversity International said: “Setting up a nationwide Millet Committee would create an enabling environment for multi-sector stakeholders to share experiences, and become a platform of cross-learning opportunities.” Dr Lalita Bhattacharjee, Senior Nutritionist with FAO, Bangladesh, highlighted the “serious need for consistent measurements of diet diversity and a strategy for convincing messages that would bring public awareness on the nutritional benefits of consuming millets.”

Efforts made by the State Government of Odisha to enhance the production, procurement and consumption of Millets were shared by Dr Saurabh Garg IAS, Principal Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment, Government of Odisha. Reiterating that policy support is a key factor to achieving successes in Odisha State, he said: “Policy support in the form of MSP (minimum support price) helped to propel the Millet initiatives taken up of the Department of Agriculture.” 

Dr Vilas Tonapi, Director ICAR – Indian Institute of Millets Research presented an encouraging picture of policy support for Millets in India. He said: “The Government of India is already preparing to launch a Millet policy that covers all areas of concern related to production, procurement, processing, consumption and distribution of Millets in India.” He added: “The future of policy for Millets has included every aspect, all departments – the Women and Child, ICDS, MDM, PDS, also farmer-communities while drafting the strategy.”  The involvement of grassroots actors (famer-communities) was stressed throughout the dialogue.

ICRISAT’s Chief Operating Officer of the NutriPlus Knowledge programme of the agribusiness innovation platform highlighted the role importance and role agri-food value chains for millets to be “smart food of the future.” While Dr Nitya Rao, gender cross-cut lead for the LANSA (Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia) and professor at East Anglia University, brought the gender dimension to the policy discussion shinning the spotlight on “drudgery of labour involved in growing and processing millets that is primarily borne by the women from the farmer-communities and the fact that this goes unrecognized, and unrewarded with no wages.”  

Dinesh Balam from WASSAN, with the revitalizing rainfed agriculture network warned of missing out on the needs of small and marginal farmers (majority of Indian farmers) in India while drafting a macro-level strategy for Millets in India. He said: “Logistics is a huge gap between demand and supply, and logistics research is the need of the hour for the Millets Mission to be successful on the ground and across the country.” 

Closing the conference, Prof Swaminathan, Founder Chairman, MSSRF, said: “The human dimension should be brought back into Millet cultivation, and revitalizing the ‘climate smart cereals’ should be high priority for the Government of India to ensure strategic movement forward to addressing nutrition insecurity in the country.”