Hailed as a miracle crop, the ancient forgotten grain Millets, largely wiped out from our farms and diets, is making a comeback, thanks to the efforts of Karnataka government. Karnataka is all set to take its Millet Movement to the rest of the country. The state is organising ‘Organics & Millets 2018- International Trade Fair’, in Bengaluru, from January 19 to 21.
In a bid to strengthen the ‘Millet Movement’ across the country, in New Delhi today, Karnataka Agriculture Minister Krishna Byra Gowda unveiled new website and logo of the International Trade Fair.
On the occasion, the Minister elucidated the benefits of millets and encouraged the masses to opt for the same as an alternate food. Also present at the conference were large industries including ITC Foods, Herbalife, Kwality, Bikanervala, GlaxoSmithKline, Marico, Bagrry Foods, Unilever, Tetra Pak, All India Farmer Association, alongside emerging start-ups such as Crop Connect, Slurrp Farm, Guna Organics etc.
Recently, Gowda pitched an idea to the United Nations, via the UNFAO through an official visit to Rome, for declaring the year 2018 as ‘International Year of Millets’. The suggestion, if agreed, will raise awareness about millets among consumers, policy makers, industry and R&D sector.
Earlier, Karnataka Department of Agriculture organised roadshows across the country as a precursor to the ‘Organics & Millets 2018- International Trade Fair’ which aims to take the ‘Organic and Millet’ message to the rest of the world.
“Karnataka government’s Organics and Millet call is being answered by farmers across the country. Overlooked since the ‘Green Revolution’ of the 1960s, these forgotten food grains are on the comeback because of their superior nutritional profile and the fact that they are highly drought resistant,” said Gowda, while announcing the Organics and Millet International Trade Fair.
Earlier, the state government organised three roadshows in Chennai, Hyderabad and Cochin and garnered considerable local and national attention, setting off an intense debate around the country on sustainable farming. The ‘Organics & Millets 2018- International Trade Fair’ will showcase the growing awareness about an alternative lifestyle and farming that respects nature.
Nutritionally superior to wheat and rice owing to their higher levels of protein with more balanced amino acid profile, crude fiber and minerals such as Iron, Zinc, and Phosphorous, millets can provide nutritional security and act as a shield against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women. The anaemia (iron deficiency), B-complex vitamin deficiency, pellagra (niacin deficiency) can be effectively tackled with intake of less expensive but nutritionally rich food grains like millets. Millets can also help tackle health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and lifestyle problems as they are gluten free, have a low glycemic index and are high in dietary fibre and antioxidants.
“This fair is a platform to bring farmers, marketers and consumers under one roof. We are proud to say that Karnataka is the first state to take the ‘Organic and Millet’ message to the world outside. Besides, our venture is the first of its kind initiative in the country to create awareness about the Organics and Millets from the government’s side. For this mission to be successful, we need the support of our neighbouring states too,” Gowda said.
The Minister said the message Karnataka wants to convey is simple. “We have to reacquaint ourselves with Millets. Incorporating this crop in our diet is one of the panacea for most health aliments we face today. For the past 4 years, this has been the main mission of the Agriculture Department of Karnataka,” he added.
Karnataka has an early mover advantage by being the first state in India to formulate an organic policy in 2004 that seeks to cater to the entire organic value chain and signals the shift in emphasis from conventional agriculture, which is increasingly becoming unsustainable. This policy was further evolved given the momentum of land under certified organic cultivation grew from 2500 Ha (2004) to 93,963, paving the way for Karnataka Organic Policy 2017. The policy is a multi-level engagement that is designed to shift from traditional farming in view of recurring droughts and erosion of soil quality. In that sense, it is a very forward looking policy and provides the farmer with much-needed market linkages. The state is the first in the country do so.
The event comes in the wake of Food Industry Leader Consortium for Organics & Millets (FILCOM) organised in Bangalore by the Department of Agriculture of Karnataka, earlier this year. Many food industry leaders like Britannia, ITC, iD Fresh Foods, Pro Nature Organic foods, Mother India Farms, Phalada Agro, Sresta Natural Bioproducts Pvt. Ltd etc attended the consortium, which was organised to restore millets’ place in our everyday diet.