Status of millets
Spatial distribution of millets in India
In India, eight millets species (Sorghum, Finger millet, Pearl millet, Foxtail millet, Barnyard millet, Proso millet, Kodo millet and Little millet) are commonly cultivated under rainfed conditions. In order to analyze the existing Area, Production & Productivity trends of Coarse cereals in the country, share of Coarse cereals vis-a-vis major crops in the country prior to “Green Revolution” and onwards need be appraised. The area assigned to Coarse cereals vis-a-vis major crops in terms of percentage to the Gross Cropped Area (GCA) in the country is enumerated below in Table.
Further, in each of the millet growing areas at least 4 to 5 species are cultivated either as primary or allied crop in combination with the pulses, oilseeds, spices and condiments (as detailed in the previous section). For instance, while Pearl millet and Sorghum are primary crop and allied crops respectively in the desert regions of Rajasthan, in the eastern parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat it is the opposite. Similarly, Sorghum is sown as major crop in the Telangana (Andhra Pradesh), Maharashtra and parts of Central India, while it is considered as fodder crop in some of the Southern regions. Likewise, Finger millet is a primary crop in Tamil Nadu and Gharwal, while the same is a minor crop in Telangana. Hence, the spatial distribution of millets either as a primary crop or as allied crops largely depends on the growing habitat and the amount of rainfall the region receives. While Sorghum predominates in areas receiving annual rainfall beyond 400 mm, Pearl millet rivals it in areas with annual rainfall of 350 mm (please refer to Chart below). Further, the small millets like Finger millet, Foxtail millet, Barnyard millet, Little millet and Proso millet are found in most of the Southern and Central States in India especially wherever annual rainfall is below 350 mm, perhaps where no other cereal crop can grow under such moisture stress.
However, in spite of a rich inter/intra-species diversity and wider climatic adaptability cultivation of diverse millet species/ varieties is gradually narrowing in the recent past. In a way, a lack of institutional support for millet crops in contrast to the institutional promotion of Rice and Wheat continue to shrink the millet-growing region. Over the last 50 years, the share of ‘Coarse grains’, which include Pearl millet, Sorghum, Maize, Finger millet, Barley and 5 other Millet species known as ‘Small Millets’, in terms of total area has registered 25.3% decline from 38.83 Mha. in 1949-50 to 29.03 Mha. in the year 2004-05. In spite of this, several communities in the dry/ rainfed regions having known the food-qualities of Millets over generations continue to include a range of Millets in the traditional cropping patterns, who recognise Millets as an essential part of the local diet.
Chart: Geographical spread of Sorghum, Pearl millet and Finger millet in India.
Also known as Ragi or Mandwa is the most important small millet food crops of Southern Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttaranchal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, It is grown successfully in areas where rainfall is about 350 mm and temperatures more than 30 degree Celsius.
Also known as Bajra is a Kharif crop and is chiefly grown in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Maharashtra. The crop can do well in the areas with less than 350 mm annual rainfall and temperatures between 25 to 35 degree Celsius.
Also known as Jowar is perceived to be important coarse grained food crop which is cultivated widely across Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Utar Pradesh, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and in parts of Rajasthan. The crop is hardy and cultivated in areas with rainfall beyond 350 mm.