Production of Coarse Grains
The Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare told the parliament last week that the production of coarse cereals has increased from 276.5 lakh tonne in 2016-17 to 347.7 lakh tonne in 2021-22 (3rd Advance Estimates).
According to him, the Government is implementing the coarse cereals development programme under the National Food Security Mission – Coarse Cereals to promote the cultivation of coarse grains like maize & barley. Maize development programme is being implemented in 237 districts of 26 states, 2 Union Territories, and Barley in 39 districts of 4 states. In addition, the states have the flexibility to take up maize development programme under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) in the area of 50-100 km around distilleries to use maize as feedstock for production of ethanol. The production of Coarse Cereals (maize & barley) during last 4 years is as under:
*As per 3rd Advance Estimates 2021-22
Department of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare (DA&FW), Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Government of India, implements the following schemes/programmes to attract youth towards agriculture and other related industries and for the development of entrepreneurship:
1. Establishment of Agri-Clinics and Agri-Business Centers (AC&ABC)
2. Skill training programmes (minimum 200 hours’ duration) for Rural Youth and Farmers including women farmers
3. Skill Training of Rural Youth (STRY)
4. Sub Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM)
5. Remunerative Approaches for Agriculture and Allied Sectors Rejuvenation (RKVY-RAFTAAR) to promote Agri-Startups
6. Certified Farm Advisor/Certified Livestock Advisor programme
7. Post Graduate Diploma in Management (Agri Business Management) [PGDM (ABM)]
Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE) through Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) implements the following schemes/programmes to attract youth towards agriculture and other related industries and for the development of entrepreneurship:
1. Technology Assessment and Demonstration for its Application and Capacity Development through Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs).
2. Attracting and Retaining Youth in Agriculture (ARYA)
The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship takes special initiative for skill development among youth who want to pursue a career in the agriculture sector, though apprenticeship programmes, vocational training courses in schools and higher educational institutes. Various initiatives implemented through Agriculture Skill Council of India (ASCI), a subsidiary under Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship are furnished below:
1. Entrepreneurship training
2. Apprenticeship programme
3. Vocationalization of School Education
4. Vocationalization of Higher Education (UGC affiliated Colleges)
The Banks and Lending Institutions provide loan to farmers including youth for various activities of agriculture & allied sectors like crop loan, infrastructure creation through Agri Infrastructure Fund (AIF), Kisan Credit Card (KCCs), value addition entrepreneurships under Pradhan Mantri Formalization of Micro Enterprises (PM FME), Farmer Producer Organization (FPOs), Self Help Group (SHGs) etc. During 2022-23, the Government has increased the agricultural credit target to Rs. 18.00 lakh crore from Rs. 16.50 lakh crore during 2021-22.
The new studies show that shifting away from white, polished rice to a diet that includes more wheat and coarse grains can improve how Indians deal with micronutrient deficiencies, as well as reduce greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions associated with paddy cultivation.
These studies have determined that or more than two-thirds of the Indian population are now affected by deficiencies in protein and micronutrients. The worst of these life-threatening deficiencies is iron (90 per cent), followed by Vitamin A (85 per cent) and protein (50 per cent). The study also shows that micronutrient deficiency is worse in India’s urban areas than in the rural hinterland.
India grows a variety of coarse grains, including sorghum, pearl millet, maize, barley, and finger millet, as well as many ‘small millets’ such as kodo millet, little millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, and barnyard millet. However, the lands devoted to cultivating millets has been steadily shrinking. According to a 2014 agricultural ministry status paper, the area under coarse grains shrank to 26.42 million hectares from 44.35 million hectares between the years 1966 and 2012.
Many experts have blamed India’s ‘green revolution’ in the mid-1960s, which focused on wheat and rice to meet food security demands, for the decline of the area of coarse cereals. While wheat and rice received research, extension and market support, on the supply side, there was a marked shift away from coarse grains, with consequences for dietary micronutrients.
Now the time has come to rectify the mistakes. Nutrient deficiency in the country can be overcome within existing household budgets by diversifying diets to include coarse cereals, pulses, and leafy vegetables, and by reducing rice intake. Obviously, these need more land for their cultivation and governmental intervention.