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Apr 29, 2009

The Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi, has given top priority for small millets’ research in the country. This is evident from the increase in the budget allocation of up to Rs. 20 crore in the XI Five Year Plan, S.N. Shukla, Assistant Director General (Food and Forage Crops), ICAR, said here on Saturday.Speaking at the All India Annual Small Millets Workshop organised under the aegis of ICAR and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Mr. Shukla expressed the hope that there was plenty of scope to promote small millets, both at the farmers’ level and the consumers’ level, in the country.

“Though at present nearly 27 per cent yield gap exists in small millets, 50 per cent of that yield gap can be bridged just by replacing the traditional varieties with High Yielding Varieties (HYV) and by adopting modern technologies. In pursuance of this, the All India Co-ordinated Programme (AICP) on Small Millets has released the HYV and modern technologies to the farmers,” Mr. Shukla said.He asked the extension departments to take more efforts to spread the HYV and technologies generated through the AICP to the farmers.

Mr. Shukla was concerned that the volume of Breeder Seed Production of small millets was frustrating. He added that the low demand for small millets among the farming community and their unwillingness to cultivate them were mainly due to the fact that the market price for small millets was very low, making cultivation un-remunerative.
“Therefore, the basic strategy will be to effectively link production of small millets with processing, value addition and ultimately the market. This integration will ensure better profit for farmers. Relaxation in rules and regulations in contract farming will enable more private participation in small millet production,” Mr. Shukla said.P. Santhanakrishnan, acting Vice-Chancellor, TNAU, said reduction in land area, water scarcity, unstable prices, climate change and non-availability of quality seeds were the main limiting factors in small millets’ production.
“Though urbanites are better informed about the nutritional advantages of small millets, consumption is less, which is a matter of concern. Conversion of small millets into alcohol also needs to be looked into. Precision farming technologies need to be developed for increasing the yield. Also, home scientists need to play a key role by developing new delicacies and recipes using small millets, which will attract consumers,” Mr. Santhanakrishnan said.

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