As India pushes for 'superfood' millets at G20, its farmers want a better support system
Together, government procurement, minimum support price and inclusion in the public distribution system can signal clear policy support and make it profitable for farmers to grow millets.
Karnataka became the first state to include millets in its public distribution system in 2015, while Odisha launched a millets mission in 2017-2018 focussing on better production, developing a millet value chain, campaigning for behaviour change, and increasing household consumption of millets.
"The lesson all states need to learn from Odisha is that farmers won't step into an uncertain environment. They need a support system just like for wheat and rice," says Ravindra of WASSAN. "Simultaneously, millets have to be promoted as a staple rather than a packaged superfood affordable only to the affluent."
"There is definitely a lot of buzz around millets now. One of the agricultural extension centres in our region took seeds from us last year for distribution among farmers. We are also getting calls from Delhi-based private players, but they offer a much lower rate than we demand," says Sudha Nagavarapu, who works with Sangtin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, a grassroots organisation of small and marginal farmers and farm labourers that has been promoting millets for the last eight years in the Sitapur district of Uttar Pradesh in north-central India.