Distribution of millets through PDS in the offing, says TNAU Vice-Chancellor
They do not have the polished look of rice or the trendy packaging of wheat. Millets, though rich in nutritive value, have been the less favoured grain. Ragi, thinai, varagu, kambu, cholam, samai, and kudiraivaali have always carried the tag of “poor man’s food”.
With the Green Revolution, and governments promoting rice and wheat through the public distribution system only resulted in increasing the dependence on these cereals to the exclusion of millets, according to agricultural experts.
But no longer so. Various factors have made not only the State Government, but also the common man realise the nutritional effectiveness to ignore the tag and make millets an integral part of the food intake in Tamil Nadu.
These factors include nutritional deficiencies and malnourishment in children that are seen as a result of too much dependence on rice and wheat and not consuming a variety of cereals.
On the part of the State Government, a Centre of Excellence for Millets has been announced to come up at Thiruvanamalai at a total cost of Rs. 20 crore, to promote millets on a mission mode.
According to Vice-Chancellor of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University K. Ramasamy, who is also a State Planning Commission member, the centre will function under the aegis of the university on a 38-acre land of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural Department. It will be set up with seed money of Rs. 1 crore
“Awareness is increasing among the common man about the significance of consuming multi-grain food products.
The government is keen to promote millets in a big way, especially in the urban areas. The role of the university in the functioning of the centre will be to popularise millets by ensuring supply of quality seeds, identifying machinery for processing the raw millets, and assisting farmers and women of self-help groups develop value-added millet products,” he said.
Retired staff of TNAU would be redeployed to work at the centre. The focus would be on promoting millets in an attractive manner. Women of self-help groups would be provided handy modified processing equipment that they could use at home to clean and break millets, prepare and process flour. Chef Damodaran would be roped in to teach them value-added products that could be packaged to be sold off- the-shelf.
Distribution of millets through the public distribution system was also in the offing.
An associate professor of nutrition and dietetics pointed out that there was a definite interest for millets among the urban population.
But it was too early to see it as a substitute for rice and wheat.
To begin with, she suggested that it could be integrated with rice, for example, while making batter for idli or dosa, the quantity of rice could be divided into two portions to include one-half of rice and the other half of millets.
Children would be interested in confectionery products, while elders could consume it in the form of gruel, dosai, idli, etc.