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Thanjavur: Farmers who suffered extensive damage to their crops in cyclone Gaja may do well to cultivate millets to tide over the difficult times, it was suggested at a national-level consultation meeting organised by the Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology in Thanjavur on Thursday. The meet was held for finding solutions to cyclone-hit farmlands in the Cauvery delta region and rebuilding the farmers’ capacities through prompt intervention.

Experts who participated in the event pointed out that millets could withstand the water shortage in the delta region as an interim crop and compensate the losses, especially of coconut farmers, until their coconut seedlings matured. “Millets are the only option for farmers considering their less water consumption and other inputs. Bringing back millets as the staple diet, which has been our tradition, is the need of the hour”, C K S Kamalakannan, chairman and managing director of Naga food Limited, said.

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In his address, Venkatesh Vijayaragavan, CEO of Cavinkare, batted for ‘renovation’ of conventional practices while Muthumaran, director, FSSAI, stated the significance of the regulations and requirements of millet and its marketing. Owing to its bumper production, 2018 was considered as the national year for millets while 2019 has been declared as the international year of the cereal crop. Since the production cost of is lesser compared to that of rice, it is advisable to grow millets, he added.

IIFPT director C Anandharamakrishnan said the institute had been taking steps for finding solutions to cyclone-hit farm lands in the delta region. “The growth rate of food processing industries is 10% which is much faster than the country’s growth rate. In the current scenario, there is a rapid growth in nutraceutical (16%), functional foods (30%) and online food trading to an unimaginable growth of 150%”, he said.

A total of 87 successful food entrepreneurs have been groomed by IIFPT in the recent past, of which a majority had ventured into millet processing. He also suggested cultivation of millet varieties like kuthiraivaali, as an interim crop in the present situation. Institutions such as CFTRI, IIMR, APEDA, Amazon, SBI and Reliance Agro also participated and offered insights into the rebuilding exercise.

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