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2023 is the International Year of Millets- FAO

  • 08 Dec 2018
  • 5 min read

India's proposal to observe an International Year of Millets in 2023 has been approved at the by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

    • India is celebrating 2018 as the national year of millets.
  • Millet is a collective term referring to a number of small-seeded annual grasses that are cultivated as grain crops, primarily on marginal lands in dry areas in temperate, subtropical and tropical regions.
  • Some of the common millets available in India are Ragi (Finger millet), Jowar (Sorghum), Sama (Little millet), Bajra (Pearl millet), and Variga (Proso millet).

Millets as Smart Food

  • Millets are less expensive and nutritionally superior to wheat & rice owing to their high protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals like iron content.
  • Millets are also rich in calcium and magnesium. For example, Ragi is known to have the highest calcium content among all the food grains.
  • Millets can provide nutritional security and act as a shield against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women. Its high iron content can fight high prevalence of anaemia in India women of reproductive age and infants.
  • Millets are rich in antioxidants.
  • Millets can help tackle lifestyle problems and health challenges such as obesity and diabetes as they are gluten-free and have a low glycemic index (a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels).

Millets as Smart Crop

  • Millets are Photo-insensitive (do not require a specific photoperiod for flowering) & resilient to climate change.
  • Millets can grow on poor soils with little or no external inputs.
  • Millets are less water consuming and are capable of growing under drought conditions, under non-irrigated conditions even in very low rainfall regimes
  • Millets have low carbon and water footprint (rice plant needs at least 3 times more water to grow in comparison to millets).
  • Millets can withstand high temperature. In times of climate change Millets are often the last crop standing and, thus, are a good risk management strategy for resource-poor marginal farmers.

Way Forward

  • Since India, which supports more than 15% of the world’s population, but only has 4% of its water resources, promotion of millets could be helpful.
  • To efficiently feed the growing population, increase in the production of and demand for millets is need of the hour.
  • Policy changes need to address infrastructure development in regions growing millets.
  • Cultivation of several varieties of millets should be encouraged and practised.
  • The government should include millets in Public Distribution System (PDS) and nutrition programmes.
    • For example, Odisha has planned to introduce millets in PDS, mid-day meal scheme (MDM) and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
  • The government should incentivise farmers growing millets and practising mixed cropping, besides providing financial support for their processing, storage and marketing.
  • Specific value addition practices, like grading, sorting, cleaning, processing and packaging should also be supported.

Additional Information

  • FAO (specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger) Council approved India’s membership to the Executive Board of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) for 2020 and 2021.
  • World Food Programme is the UN agency focused on hunger alleviation and food security.
  • Globally, it responds to emergencies making sure food reaches where it is needed, especially in times of civil strife and natural disasters.
  • In India, WFP has moved from providing direct food aid to providing technical assistance and capacity building services to the Government of India.
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