The Central government has recently formulated an action plan to promote exports of millet. The government has planned to facilitate participation of exporters, farmers, and traders in 16 international trade expos and Buyer Seller Meet for exports and promotion of Indian millets across the globe.
What is the plan?
- According to the action plan, Indian missions abroad would be roped in branding and publicity of Indian millets.
- This include, identification of potential buyers such as departmental stores, supermarkets, and hypermarkets for organising business-to-business meetings and direct tie-ups.
- As part of the promotion of Indian millets, Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has planned to showcase millets and its value-added product on various global platforms.
- NOTE – The 160th session of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Council approved India’s proposal to observe an International Year of Millets in 2023. Consequently, the United Nations declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets.
What are millets?
- Millets are one of the oldest foods, these are the small-seeded hardy crops which can grow well in dry zones or rain-fed areas under marginal conditions of soil fertility and moisture. Millets are cultivated in low-fertile land, tribal and rain-fed and mountainous areas.
- Millets can not only grow in poor climatic or soil conditions and provide nutritious grain as well as fodder, but these can also very well fit into multiple cropping systems under irrigation as well as dryland farming due to their short growing season.
- The prolonged and easy storability of millets under ordinary conditions has given them the status of Famine Reserves and this feature is of great importance for India, as the agriculture of our country suffers from unexpected changes in monsoon.
Millets in India –
- The major millets grown in India are Pearl Millet (Bajra), Sorghum (Jowar), Finger Millet (Ragi), Foxtail Millet (Kangni), Proso (Cheena), Barnyard Millet (Sawan), Little Millet (Kutki), and Kodo Millet. All these are rich in fibre, minerals, and Vitamins. Pearl Millet, for instance, has the highest content of macro as well as micronutrients such as iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, folic acid, and riboflavin.
- Many of these are missing in rice or wheat. Scientific studies link millets intake to blood sugar control, reduced inflammation, improved digestion, and lower risk of heart diseases and cancer.
- Major producers include Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana.
Significance of millets –
- While stark hunger, as reflected in starvation deaths, has more or less been banished from the world, malnutrition (read undernourishment or disguised hunger) is still rampant. Nearly two billion people are reckoned to suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, resulting in stunted physical and mental growth in children.
- Worse still, about 45 per cent of the deaths of children under five are attributed to deficient or imbalanced nutrition. Ending malnutrition and promoting sustainable farming have, therefore, rightfully, been included in the 17 Social Development Goals, adopted at the Earth Summit in 2015.
- Millets hold the key to achieve this objective because they offer both health gains and sustainability of production under changing climate. Globally, most millet crops have gone out of cultivation. The few surviving ones include Pearl Millet, Barley, sorghum, Quinoa, Amaranth, Bulgur (Cracked wheat), Rye, Kamut (Khorasen wheat), and Freekeh (green durum wheat).
Ecological benefits –
- Interestingly, there are some cogent ecological reasons as well for promoting millet cultivation. These crops are the most efficient converters of solar energy into food and biomass.
- In terms of photosynthetic efficiency, they belong to the top C4 category, against C3 of wheat and rice.
- More importantly, millet crops sequester carbon from the atmosphere while paddy fields spew methane, a greenhouse gas.
- Besides, these are hardy, drought-tolerant, and heat-resistant crops that generally do not succumb to pests and diseases and are suited for cultivation without assured irrigation.
About APEDA –
- The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) was established by the Government of India under the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority Act, 1985.
- It functions under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The Authority has its headquarters in New Delhi.
- APEDA is mandated with the responsibility of export promotion and development of the scheduled products viz. fruits, vegetables and their products; meat and meat products; poultry and poultry products; dairy products; confectionery, biscuits and bakery products; honey, jaggery and sugar products; cocoa and its products, chocolates of all kinds; alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages; cereal and cereal products; groundnuts, peanuts and walnuts, pickles, papads and chutneys; guar gum; floriculture and floriculture products; herbal and medicinal plants.
- APEDA has been entrusted with the responsibility to monitor import of sugar.
- It looks after the development of industries relating to the scheduled products for export by way of providing financial assistance or otherwise for undertaking surveys and feasibility studies, participating through subsidy schemes.
- Registration of persons as exporters of the scheduled products and fixing of standards and specifications for the scheduled products for the purpose of exports.
- It also carries out inspection of meat and meat products in slaughterhouses, processing plants, storage premises and improving packaging of the scheduled products.