Value-addition for ragi crop raised by cultivators on the Bargur hills is round the corner.
The Myrada Krishi Vigyan Kendra based at Gobichettipalayam has taken an initiative to establish a facility at Bargur for converting ragi into powder, biscuits, nutrition balls and other products that have ready market.
Farmers believe that value-added products made of organically grown ragi would have a niche market.
The machinery for converting ragi into value-added products would be installed shortly at Bargur, said P. Alagesan, Head, Myrada KVK, Gobichettipalayam. Such value-added products sold through the KVK-promoted Uzhavan Angadi at Gobichettipalayam are patronised well by buyers, Mr. Alagesan said.
Value-addition for ragi, according to a senior Agriculture Department official, has become a necessity to encourage the farmers to stick-on to ragi cultivation.
Over the last few years, farmers have been switching over to tapioca cultivation in anticipation of higher returns.
Though the tapioca is of high-quality their economic condition has only deteriorated as they have become victims of market manipulation by middlemen procuring the tapioca under a buy-back system for the chips-making industry.
Because of the transition, a section of farmers who used to consume only ragi till a few years back, have started facing health problems after depending on rice as staple food.
Malnutrition was becoming common among children because of the changed food habit, official sources said, citing the extent of visits the tribal people undertake to hospitals in Anthiyur.
Better remuneration for ragi that would be made possible through value addition. And, higher marketability would prompt farmers to revert to traditional food habits and cultivation pattern, officials say.
Through the value-addition centre, the ragi could be powdered for making porridges, puddings, cakes, and pancakes.
Beverages made of malted ragi are quite popular in the market, official sources said.