Revival of millets in Indian market is on the rise among consumers but for farmers in Ron, North Karnataka selling millets, it is still a challenge.
To overcome the problem of malnutrition and draught, government has taken initiative to encourage citizens for healthier diet as well as help farmers to overcome the challenges of draught by reintroducing millets in the market.
Though states in India like Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka are the major producer of millets, yet millet farming is facing challenges in the villages of North Karnataka, where farmers are not getting market to sell their crops.
Ron with a population of around 4 lakh has 90% of its people engaged in agriculture. Millets were the major crop in Ron 25 years back but now the situation has changed.
SiddhappaHanumappaJalihal is a farmer who used to grow millets at large quantity earlier but as the prices went down, he also reduced the production. In his farm, millets got aside and other crops covered the farm. But he has not stopped millets production and increase it’s use for self-consumption.
Millets are nutritionally healthier than largely consumed crops like wheat and rice. It has protein 9.8%, fiber 4.3% minerals 2.7% and carbohydrate 81.5% comparable to other cereals. Karnataka government is making lot of efforts nowadays to bring back millets in the market to raise awareness among farmers and consumers.
Not only in nutrition, it is a dry crop which is suitable for the land of Ron. It consumes 2.5% less water than the crops like wheat, rice, maize.
“Farmers don’t get fair prices ofmillets that they grow. Farmers get Rs25-Rs40 per kg. Ultimately when these millets reach the city markets they are sold at Rs 100 per kg and even more. If we have 50 bags of millers to sell then nobody’s buy them from us.” Says, SiddhappaJalihal.
On the other side, because of growing demand of millets in the city, government is trying to focus on the supply which is less and that has led to the high prices of millets in the market.
“In our taluk farmers grow different kind of millets like figure tail millets, foxtail millets. Earlier there was no such demands but as it is healthy crop we are empowering farmers by organizing different awareness programs in the villages. We also have farmer’s federations which are working on millet farming. There are incentives for farmers like we are giving them 1500 rs per acre if they grow millets in their farms”says,Sriniwas, Agriculture Officer, Ron Taluk.
The problem arises when government’s efforts are not reaching to the farmers. “Sometimes they sell it in the market if they grow more. To sale in a bulk we have to go to different small shops where farmers sale them and then collect it in a bulk to sell outside. The rate is so low and that is why nobody tried to grow it. Whatever government is doing is limited to the big cities, farmers are not at all aware about the programs” says, S.P Patil, Private Millets in Millets, Gadag District.
In India, the total millet production decreased compared to the past years but not at that extent. In 1965-66 crop year- 36.90 million hectares and now in 2016-17 crop year- 22.18 million hectares. After green revolution in 1960, people shifted to rice and wheat which increased their demand.
To overcome with these problems,“Government is trying to introduce millets in PDS and mid-day meals “says, RaghunathKulakrni , Technical Officer, Indian Institute of Millets Research . Also there are several organizations who are promoting millet farming like Indian Institute of Millets Research Hyderabad, Deccan Development Society Hyderabad, National Institute of Nutrition and others.
To help farmers several private organizations or NGOs are working, which take millets from farmers at the market rate and processing them and sell it. One of them is Kaulige Millets in Bangalore which is working with the farmers of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. “We have our own factory where we process the millets into final products and sell them in the market at different rates. Farmers have challenges in processing and distribution of their crops”, says ArunKaulige, co-founder of KauligeMIllets.
“We want the government to help us in providing the accurate price so that we can grow more millets”,Siddhappa,farmer, Ron Taluk, Gadag.