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Millets can tackle challenges of global food security, bad food habits: PM Modi

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NEW DELHI, March 18 (PTI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said millets can help tackle challenges of global food security as well as diseases arising from bad food habits as he exhorted farm scientists to work towards increasing the share of nutri-cereals in the national food basket from the current 5-6 per cent only.

Addressing the gathering after inaugurating the ‘Global Millets (Shree Anna) Conference’, Modi noted that many states have included millets in their PDS system and suggested that other states follow suit.

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He also called for including the super food in the mid-day meal so that children can get proper nutrition.

The prime minister also stressed that India wants to share its agricultural practices with the world and learn from experiences from other countries.

He also made a strong pitch for developing a stable supply chain for these super food from field to market and from one country to another.

The prime minister also unveiled a customised postal stamp and Rs 75 currency coin to mark International Year of Millets celebrated this year.

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Hyderabad-based ICAR-Indian Institute of Millets Research was also declared as a Centre of Excellence.

Speaking about the food security challenges faced by the world, Modi said: “We are aware that the world today is facing two types of challenges. On one hand, there is a Global South which is concerned about food security for the poor, on the other hand there is Global North where diseases related to food habits is becoming a serious problem.

“On one side, there is a challenge of food security and on the other side the problem of food habit. Both sides have expressed concern about heavy use of chemicals in farming. Shree Anna provides solutions for all such challenges,” he said.

Millet is a common term to categorise small-seeded grasses that are often termed nutri-cereals and includes Sorghum (Jowar), Pearl Millet (Bajra), Finger Millet (Ragi), Little Millet (Kutki), Foxtail Millet (Kakun), Proso Millet (Cheena), Barnyard Millet (Sawa), Kodo Millet (Kodon) and other millets.

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Modi informed the foreign delegates present at the event about India’s branding initiatives for millets as India now calls millets ‘Shree Anna’.

He elaborated that Shree Anna is not limited to just food or farming. Those acquainted with the Indian tradition will understand the importance of prefixing ‘Shree’ before anything.

“Shree Anna is becoming a medium of holistic development in India. It is linked with ‘gaon’ as well as ‘garib’ (Village and the poor)”.

He referred to Shree Anna as a door to prosperity for small farmers of the country, the cornerstone of nutrition for crores of countrymen and a felicitation of the Adivasi community.

Modi also mentioned that millets can be grown with less water,  and are a big foundation for chemical-free farming. They can also help in fighting climate change.

He also said it is a matter of great honour for the country that after India’s proposal and efforts, the United Nations declared 2023 as ‘International Year of Millets’.

Stressing that millets bring with them endless possibilities, Modi said nutri-cereals are climate resilient and can be easily produced even in adverse climatic conditions.

He informed the delegates that it is a preferred crop for water stressed areas as it requires relatively less water to grow and can be grown naturally without chemicals and thereby safeguards the health of both humans and the soil.

Modi said about 2.5 crore small farmers are directly involved in the production of millets in the country and India’s Millet Mission campaign will prove to be a boon for them.

He said India is continuously working to promote millets as a global movement.

Asserting that there is huge potential in milllets, Modi said, “In the national food basket, Shree Anna today constitutes only 5-6 per cent.  I urge India’s scientists and farm experts to work expeditiously to increase the share.  We will have to set achievable targets annually for it.”

He also informed the delegates that millets are primarily cultivated in 12-13 different states in the country where at-home consumption per month per person was not more than 2-3 kilogram but the consumption today has increased to 14 kilogram per month.

There has been 30 per cent increase in sale of millet-based products. Even millet cafes are visible at some places. In 19 districts, millets are being promoted under ‘One District One Product’ scheme, he added.

Stating that the government has launched a production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme to encourage food processing, Modi said more benefits should reach the millet sector and asked companies to take advantage of the scheme to increase production of millet-based products.

Modi emphasised that India wants to share its agricultural practices and its experiences related to Shree Anna with the world while also learn from other countries.

He specially requested agriculture ministers of the nations present at the event to develop a stable mechanism in this direction and emphasized that a new supply chain should be developed with shared responsibilities from field to market and from one country to another.

The prime minister informed that more than 500 startups working on millets have come up and a large number of FPOs are also coming forward in the last few years.

He also pointed out that a complete supply chain is being developed in the country where women from self-help groups in small villages are making millet products that are making their way into malls and supermarkets.

Agriculture ministers from Guyana, Maldives, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname and the Gambia were present at the event.

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Choudhary were present at the event.

Recognising the importance of millets or nutri-cereals, and creating a domestic and global demand along with providing nutritious food to the people, India spearheaded the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution for declaring the year 2023 as International Year of Millets.

The proposal of India was supported by 72 countries, and UNGA declared 2023 as International Year of Millets in March 2021.

India produces more than 170 lakh tonne of millet, which is 80 per cent of Asia’s and 20 per cent of the global production. While the global average yield of millet is 1,229 kg/hectare, the yield in India is 1,239 kg/ha.

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