With 2023 declared as the UN International Year of Millets, several events and activities are expected to be rolled out across India aimed at spreading awareness about the ancient grain.
India's push to popularize millets has been in the works since at least 2012-13, when the government-mandated support price (MSP) for millets was raised higher than that of the country's staple foodgrain crops of paddy and wheat.
But the MSP is just one cog in the giant wheel of India's agricultural system. Another important factor is public procurement, or the purchase of agricultural products from farmers by the government.
Data provided by Food Corporation of India (FCI), the agency responsible for public procurement, shows that the government's purchase of millets has been negligible.
FCI's foodgrain stock figures show a stock of 119,000 tonnes of millets — compared to over 16 million tonnes of paddy and more than 15 million tonnes of wheat.
However, the sheer magnitude of the benefits of millets has enthused many and they want the federal government to do more.
Agriculture policy analyst Devinder Sharma said he has met several farmers across many states who grow millets, but even with the new MSP, their earnings have not increased.
"The current MSP is too low," Sharma told DW. "Millets require a virtually negligible amount of water, are an instrument of crop diversification and have multiple health benefits. The government should consider these factors and raise the MSP significantly."
He also dismissed the argument that millets are expensive and said that people who can buy a cup of coffee at restaurants for nearly €4 can easily spend about €1 for a kilo of ragi.
Sharma believes people have already developed an interest in millets and clever marketing campaigns can help boost consumption of the ancient, humble grain.
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