Gujarat’s millet production falls drastically -Paul John
-The Times of India
AHMEDABAD: Gujarat today figures among the few states in the country with high malnutrition rates among it's children and low immunity levels in its general population. Agricultural scientists and nutrition experts in the country have suggested how effective millet management in Public Distribution System (PDS) and mid-day meal schemes was the key to ensure nutrition security for small farmers and marginal tribal communities. However, in Gujarat millet production has drastically dropped in both acreage of cultivation as well as production in just one year.
The latest state socio-economic survey shows, jowar production for instance dropped by 52% between 2013 and 2014 while its area under cultivation dropped by 48%. In the case of Bajra, which is considered nutritious, the production dropped by 21% while the area under cultivation decreased by 25%. The data also shows how production of foodgrains like maize has dropped by 15% in the same period. Production of rice and wheat have either increased or marginally decreased in the state.
"Millets are nutritionally rich and climate-smart and therefore should be given the importance they deserve. Millets are rich in protein, fibre, minerals and micro-nutrients. Millets have been proven to be better than wheat and rice. They need less water to grow and can provide high productivity even in the difficult climatic conditions. But the government still does not promote millets," says Paryavaran Mitra member Mahesh Pandya
A senior state agriculture department official says that in the existing Public Distribution System (PDS), as per the new Food Security Act passed by Parliament, millets are priced at Re 1 per kg, compared to wheat at Rs 2 and rice at Rs 3 per kg. However, millets have not been encouraged in the PDS system as the state government procures lesser quantities of millets from farmers, unlike for rice and wheat where procurement mechanisms are in place.
Pandya further adds, "Another major problem is that many marginal farmers in the state face problems of debt and have to depend on cash crops to pay back loans," says Pandya. He insists that PDS policies should be focused on alleviating poverty and malnutrition among small farm-holding families.
The Times of India, 8 April, 2015, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Gujarats-millet-production-falls-drastically/articleshow/46843157.cms