Farmers find a friend in good old millet

By Times Of India on 28 Jul 2017
Trichy: Millets have always been recognised as a healthy food. Now, distressed farmers of the parched delta region have rediscovered a friend in this amazingly low water-consuming crop. A company promoted entirely by farmers has decided to take up millet cultivation in a big way considering the fact that it is the best alternative to go for in times of drought and crop failure.

'Farmer Producer Company' (FPC) will take up millet cultivation under 200 acres in Musiri taluk in Trichy district. If it succeeds, the entire 4,000 acres lying waste in and around the area would be brought under millet cultivation.

The company, based at Thinnakkonam village near Musiri, was established a year ago with as many as 200 farmers as shareholders. Any farmer could become a shareholder by remitting Rs 1,000. He or she would be provided a kilogram of millet seeds for cultivation. After harvesting, the farmer has to return 2 kilograms of seed to the company, said its managing mirector C Yoganathan.

In fact, the company has preserved rare varieties of paddy such as 'Navara', 'Maappillai Samba', 'Kichadi Samba', 'Poongar' and 'Iluppai samba' besides more than 10 varieties of millet including Foxtail millet, Small millet, Finger millet, Ragi, Sorghum, Horse gram, Black Horse gram, Dhal, Green gram, Mat beans. They also have 60 varieties of vegetable seeds.

"Millet is one of the oldest food items known to humans and is a source of good health during difficult times. It is relatively cheap and easy to grow and can be stored well for years. Since a single seed produces a lot of grains, it is not expensive. It does not need any extra fertilizer or water to grow well. It is seldom affected by pests", Yoganathan added.

Since there was no water in any of the reservoirs, farmers have given up hope of cultivating paddy. Hence, it was the right time to go for alternative means, he said. He claimed that many farmers had come forward to take up millet which had been unutilised for decades.

"There are 4,000 acres of land idling in Neyveli, Natchampatti, Veeramanipatti and Thinnakonam. Soon we will cover the entire land by cultivating millets. Farmers can sell their produce to the company itself. They need not worry about marketing," he added. The company in turn will sell the grains across the state wherever there is a demand, he said.

"We have also appealed to the government to take necessary steps to distribute millets in fair price shops at least once in three months. Commissioner, Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Department has already assured us to do the needful", he added.