FAO Council approves India’s proposal to observe 2023 as International Year of Millets

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Council of the United Nations approved India’s proposal to observe the year 2023 as the International Year of Millets. The approval came during the 160th session of the FAO, which was held during December 3-7, 2018 in Rome.

The information was given by Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Radha Mohan Singh on December 7, 2018.

Why India pressed for the need to observe International Year of Millets?

The Move came after the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare noted that the millet cultivation in India has declined due to change in dietary habits and unavailability of millets.

As a result of this, level of nutrients like proteins, Vitamin-A, iron and iodine have fell in women and children.

Significance

Such observance will enhance global awareness to bring back nutri-cereals to the plate for food and nutrition security, thus, increasing their production for resilience to challenges posed by climate change.

This international endorsement comes in the backdrop of India’s observance of 2018 as the National Year of Millets for promoting cultivation and consumption of these nutri-cereals.

Millets and their prices

Millets consists of Jowar, Bajra, Ragi and minor millets, together termed as nutri-cereals.

The Minimum Support Prize (MSP) of Jowar has been increased to Rs 2450 per quintal from Rs 1725, Bajra to Rs 1950 from Rs 1425, and Ragi to Rs 2897 from Rs 1900 per quintal from 2018-19.

Through the Department of Food and Public Distribution, the State Governments procure jowar, bajra, maize and ragi from farmers at MSP.

India’s membership to Executive Board of World Food Program (WFP)

FAO Council also approved India’s membership to the Executive Board of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) for 2020 and 2021.

About World Food Programme

Established in 1961 after 1960 Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Conference, the World Food Programme is the food-assistance branch of the United Nations.

It is the world's largest humanitarian organisation addressing hunger and promoting food security.

It provides food assistance to an average of 80 million people in 75 countries each year.

It is headquartered in Rome.

It is a member of the United Nations Development Group and part of its Executive Committee.

Millets and their benefits

Millets are highly nutritious and useful in various lifestyle diseases, enhance resilience and risk management in face of climate change especially for small and marginal farmers.

Millet is a common term that categorises small-seeded grasses termed as 'Nutri-Cereals' or 'Dryland-Cereals'. These nutri-cereals are sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, kodo millet and other millets.

Millet is an important staple cereal crop for millions of dryland farmers across Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. They offer nutrition, income and livelihood for farmers even in difficult times.

They can be used in various forms such as food, feed, fodder, biofuels and brewing.

They are nutritionally superior to wheat and rice as they have higher levels of protein with more balanced amino acid profile, crude fiber & minerals such as Iron, Zinc, and Phosphorous.

They can offer nutritional security and act as a shield against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women.

Some major deficiencies such as anaemia (iron deficiency), B-complex vitamin deficiency, pellagra (niacin deficiency) can be dealt easily with intake of less expensive but nutritionally rich 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.

Moreover, in times of climate change, they will be the last crop standing and will be a good risk management strategy for resource-poor marginal farmers.

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