Uas-B To Take Minor Millets Into Urban Food Basket

By TheHindu on 22 Jun 2015 | read
Novel ideas:Entrepreneurs displaying their products at an exhibition held as part of the foundation stone laying of the Centre of Excellence for Processing and Value Addition of Small Millets in Bangalore on Wednesday.— Photo: K. GOPINATHAN 

How about having pasta, vermicelli, flakes, doughnuts, cup cakes, ‘muruku’ and bread made of minor millets such as ragi, foxtail (navane), pearl millet (sajje), little millet (saame) and sorghum?

Well, these products developed by the University of Agricultural Sciences-Bangalore as ‘health food’ are already in huge demand in the market though they are still being produced in a very small way by some handful of entrepreneurs.

Gone are the days when urban residents looked down upon minor millets such as ragi, navane, etc.

Their high-nutritional value, positive impact on health and the fact that they are drought-resistant crops have made agricultural scientists and policy makers in the country to draw up big plans to bring these under-utilised crops back into the food baskets of people, especially urban residents.

In a strategic manner, they are now trying to offer these high-nutrient millets in the form of foods which are popular in urban areas such as pasta, flakes and vermicelli in a bid to attract young people, rather than the conventional rural foods being made from these millets for ages.

In fact, the Union Department of Agriculture and Co-operation is keen on promoting these minor millets — which are mostly grown in parts of southern India — across the country.

It has drawn up a Rs. 300-crore scheme to popularise these ‘nutri-cereals’ as well as their value-addition.

The UAS-B will play a key role in this exercise as the above scheme has provided a Centre of Excellence for Processing and Value Addition of Small Millets to it.

While the Centre has already commenced its work, a foundation stone was laid for providing a separate building to it on the vniversity campus on Wednesday by Atanu Purkayastha, Joint Secretary, Union Department of Agriculture and Co-operation.

A two-day workshop on millets too has been organised on the occasion to highlight the importance of minor millets as food crops.

Mr. Purkayastha said the production of minor millets had increased by about 20 per cent in the regions where the above scheme to popularise them had been taken up.

UAS-B Vice-Chancellor K. Narayana Gowda said that it had become inevitable for the country to tap the potential of minor millets as foodgrains in the wake of the production of the country’s major food crops of rice and wheat reaching a plateau at a crucial time when the demand for food was shooting up.

He stressed the need for value addition of minor millets. Mr. Gowda suggested that rural women should be encouraged to take up the processing, value addition and marketing of the produce made of minor millets.

The Centre for Excellence Principal scientist V. Palanimuthu told The Hindu that the Centre would focus on development of farm machinery, refinement of existing technologies, entrepreneurship development, training and facilitation of market linkages between processors and producers.