Millet Farmers Could Face Crisis Next, Says Father Of India’s Green Revolution MS Swaminathan

Focus on farmers’ income rather than just output, says MS Swaminathan.
A farmer works in a millet field won the outskirts ofBengaluru, India, on Friday, June 9, 2017
A farmer works in a millet field won the outskirts ofBengaluru, India, on Friday, June 9, 2017

After pulses and potatoes, the next crisis could be for millet farmers.

That’s the warning from agri scientist MS Swaminathan, who played a key role in India’s Green Revolution that made the country self-sufficient in grain production. Millet, a coarse grain used both as food and fodder, can withstand high and low temperatures and is cultivated across states like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

“Three years ago there was an international pulses year and farmers were asked to produce more,” said Swaminathan, the chairman of the National Commission of Farmers from 2004-2014. “Farmers responded to the increased demand but there was no market and government did not buy it.” A similar situation could now be brewing with millet.

The Union Budget Feb. 1 is widely expected to address the issue of rural distress. Farmers have been protesting against low prices and growing debt. States like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Punjab have already pardoned farm loans.

Swaminathan said lack of income stability for farmers has led to widespread anger. “Sometimes imports have been done at a wrong time, with the result of price collapse,” he said, citing the example of pulses farmers.

Swaminathan advises an increased focus on a ‘fair price’ to farmers. The National Commission of Farmers during his tenure had recommended cost plus 50 percent pricing for farm produce. He hopes the government focuses more on farmer incomes rather than just productivity.

The whole agricultural progress should not be measured as 4-5 percent production growth. It must be measured as 4-5 percent income growth. 
MS Swaminathan, Agri Scientist
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