Gujarat farmers reap windfall as millets gain international attention


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By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, March 20: Farmers growing millets in Gujarat are making a killing following the international attention to the coarse cereal and also Central government’s aggressive marketing during the G20 presidency of the traditional superfood of the country. Farmers, who grow millets, are stated to be fetching much higher prices in the open market, and they are not coming to the government agencies for procurement at the minimum support prices (MSPs).

India is aggressively marketing millets all through several sessions being held across the country as part of the G20 presidency. The year 2023 is also being commemorated as the International Year of Millets. Several startups have joined the value addition chain to promote the consumption of millets, helping several varieties to command firm prices in the open market.

“Farmers growing jowar, bajra and other millets have opted out of selling to the government agencies in Gujarat. What we are witnessing is also being told to us to be the case in other states. Varieties of millets are fetching higher market prices in the open market due to their aggressive marketing as them being healthy superfood,” said a senior official of the Gujarat government.

The Ministry of Agriculture is also organising a number of events to promote the consumption of millets in the international market. With demand for healthy food growing, the government is seen to be seeking to ride the alternative food demand to promote millets to help in the diversification of Indian agriculture to non-water intensive crops.

Meanwhile, Gujarat farmers are giving a miss to the government procurement agencies in the wake of much higher open market prices for their produces. Gujarat government is mulling to top up the Minimum Support Prices with bonuses per quintal to attract farmers to the procurement system as part of the government efforts to maintain a minimum public stocks of grains.

“There is an absolutely lukewarm response on the part of the farmers to register for the upcoming procurement season. In the case of groundnuts, there has been almost zero response from the farmers to sell their produces on the MSPs,” said a top ranking official of the Gujarat government, who briefed the Ministry of Food and Consumer Affairs about the prevailing situation in the state on procurement of foodgrains.

“Farmers are fetching higher prices than the MSPs in Gujarat for their produces. This may also be a case in other states, as cereal prices are high across the country. Only the wheat prices have come down after the Food Corporation of India auctioned huge quantities in the open market,” added the official.

Gujarat government has started the procurement registration for various categories of grains, but in the first 15 days of registration, officials said, that there had not been even one third of the farmers’ registrations compared to the last procurement season. “Market prices for grains are higher than the minimum support prices at which procure grains from the farmers. This has resulted in the farmers selling grains in the open market than coming to the government agencies,” added the official.

“Even in the case of wheat, which is expected to hit the market shortly with a fresh harvest, only a few of the farmers have registered with the government procurement agencies on account of high open market prices. Wheat farmers in Gujarat may not come to the government agencies, as those with better qualities are fetching much higher price in the open market than what’s being offered by the MSP,” added the official

Farmers are also getting strong prices in the open market for tur daal. “We have literally no farmers selling tur daal to the government agencies,” said the official. Gujarat government, which may be the case with other states, is mulling to come up with a fresh announcement of bonus for the grains varieties to attract the farmers to the public procurement agencies.

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