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Gujarat Agri Minister Plans Scheme to Expand Millet Cultivation Area in IYM-2023

India is the world's largest producer of millets, with Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Gujarat contributing to over 83 percent of the total millet production.

Shivam Dwivedi
Gujarat Agri Minister Plans Scheme to Expand Millet Cultivation Area in IYOM (Photo Source: Pixabay)
Gujarat Agri Minister Plans Scheme to Expand Millet Cultivation Area in IYOM (Photo Source: Pixabay)

Gujarat government is taking steps to promote millet cultivation by developing a scheme that offers assistance to farmers in purchasing essential resources such as seeds, fertilizers, and crop protection chemicals. Agriculture Minister Raghavji Patel made this announcement during a press conference in Rajkot on May 26. Additionally, the government has already initiated the procurement of millet directly from farmers.

This scheme comes at a time when farmers have shown a lack of interest in government operations aimed at procuring millets at the minimum support price (MSP) during the ongoing Rabi marketing season. To address this issue, the state Budget for 2023-24 has allocated Rs 30 crore to the Gujarat State Civil Supplies Corporation for procuring millets from farmers. Minister Patel emphasized the importance of providing assistance to farmers in the form of inputs to encourage them to cultivate millets on a larger scale.

During an interview with an English daily, Minister Patel mentioned that the government intended to assist farmers in purchasing inputs like seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides for millet cultivation. He further stated that a scheme was currently being drafted, and the preliminary plan was to provide assistance to each farmer for up to two hectares of millet cultivation area.

The initiative to promote millet cultivation aligns with the United Nations' declaration of 2023 as the 'International Year of Millets' (IYM) at the request of India. Millets are known for their low water requirement, resilience to climate change, and suitability for cultivation in arid regions.

India is the world's largest producer of millets, with Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Gujarat contributing to over 83 percent of the total millet production. In 2020, India produced 124.88 million tonnes of pearl millet (bajra) and 34.75 million tonnes of sorghum (jowar), accounting for 40.51 percent and 7.58 percent of the global production, respectively.

Gujarat is a significant producer of pearl millet and sorghum. In the Kharif season of 2022, farmers in Gujarat sowed bajra across 1.85 lakh hectares, and in the summer season of 2023, the cultivation area expanded to 2.79 lakh hectares, resulting in a cumulative production of 1.14 million tonnes. To commemorate the IYM, the state government decided for the first time in March to procure bajra, hybrid and maldandi varieties of jowar, finer millet (ragi), and maize from farmers at the MSP and distribute them to the poor through the public distribution system.

Initially, the government planned to procure these grains at the Union government-fixed MSP of Rs 2,350 for bajra, Rs 2,970 for hybrid jowar, Rs 2,990 for maldandi jowar, Rs 3,578 for finger millet, and Rs 1,962 for maize. However, the lukewarm response from farmers due to market prices being at par or higher than the MSP led the government to offer a bonus of Rs 300 per quintal for bajra, jowar, and finger millet above their respective MSPs on May 9. The registration window for farmers was extended to accommodate the bonus scheme.

The state food, civil supplies, and consumer affairs department set a target of procuring 45,000 metric tonnes of bajra, 4,000 metric tonnes of jowar, 1,000 metric tonnes of finger millet, and 10,000 metric tonnes of maize during the Rabi marketing season of 2022-23. With the additional bonus, the effective procurement prices for bajra, jowar, and ragi reached Rs 2,650, Rs 3,270, and Rs 3,878 per quintal, respectively. The government opened procurement centers on April 1, which will remain operational until June 15.

However, the response from farmers has been relatively low. As of May 26, only 7,432 farmers had registered to sell bajra, 178 for jowar, 526 for maize, and only two for ragi. Out of the registered farmers, only 44 have delivered 168 quintals of bajra to government procurement centers in the two-month-long operation. No farmer has responded to the government's SMS alerts to transport jowar and ragi to the procurement centers. Only 17 farmers from Mahisagar district have sold 99 quintals of maize to the government.

Minister Patel acknowledged the farmers' lack of enthusiasm in selling their harvest to the government. He mentioned that even after the announcement of the bonus, farmers had not yet shown significant interest. This indicated that market prices were higher than the Minimum Support Price (MSP).

Official data reveals a decline in the cultivation area of pearl millet in Gujarat, from 10.86 lakh hectares in 1995-96 to 9.15 lakh hectares in 2005-06, and further plummeting to 3.9 lakh hectares by 2015-16. In 2022-23, the cumulative bajra acreage was 4.63 lakh hectares. However, the data shows that production has remained stable at an average of 1 million tonnes.

Minister Patel emphasized the need for a two-pronged strategy to address this decline. He stated that farmers must be incentivized by providing them with necessary resources to expand the cultivation of millets. Simultaneously, efforts should be made to ensure that farmers receive fair prices for their produce. In order to raise public awareness about the benefits of millets, the Gujarat government had been organizing events. One such event was a luncheon where various millet preparations were served, along with Chief Minister's millet meals.

With the implementation of the proposed scheme to assist farmers in purchasing inputs for millet cultivation, the Gujarat government aims to rejuvenate millet farming in the state and contribute to the success of the 'International Year of Millets' initiative.

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