Processing unit at University of Agricultural Sciences, Raichur, has boosted both production and popularity of the superfood in Hyd-K’taka region
RAICHUR: Lakshman Biradar, a middle-aged farmer of Raichur, never considered millets as a good investment option in drought-prone Karnataka. But as the state embarks on a mission to revive millet cultivation and its use in the country, Lakshman has been reaping benefits by sowing millets for the past two years.
Karnataka has been pitching strongly for nutrient-rich millets of late. Thanks to the state’s initiatives, the Centre has even declared 2018 as the ‘national year of millets,’ proving the much-needed fillip to the superfood cereals such as jowar and ragi.
University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Raichur, has, meanwhile, been doing its bit to encourage millet cultivation by setting up a millet-based food processing unit on its premises, which is the way forward. It purchases raw millets from farmers and sells diversified millet rice and bakery items to people living inside and outside the campus at a very reasonable rate. This has boosted both the production and popularity of millets.
“The processing unit established between 2014 and 2016 has given a boost to millet farming in the region. Processing at UAS is comparatively cheaper, and since there is no involvement of middlemen, farmers of Hyderabad-Karnataka region save a lot of money. I grow foxtail millet, and have been selling the produce to UAS, Raichur for the past two years,” says Lakshman. Different varieties of millets are grown in Raichur, Koppal, Yadgir and Ballari districts.
“Making profit is not the goal of the UAS. The varsity’s aim is to promote millet use among common people. They sell healthy millet products at a reasonable price, only to sustain the business and run the units established on the premises. Encouraging farmers to cultivate millets is the need of the hour,” adds Lakshman.To help farmers, minimal price processing is also done. This means, the growers apart from selling millets can give raw millets to the university for processing and the farmers in turn can sell it in the market on their own.
The processing is done at Rs 6 per kg. Foxtail millet, browntop millet, corle, finger millet, proso millet and barnyard millet are used for preparing rice and semolina (rava), while foxtail millet is used to produce bakery items such as cupcakes, muffins, puffs, dil pasands, biscuits, rusks and breads. The bakery items have huge demand and on a monthly basis, the university sells 1,000- 2,000 pounds of breads, 25-35 kg of biscuits, 5,000 to 10,000 cupcakes and over 100 puffs per day. While bakery items are mainly sold in the market at a reasonable price, rice and semolina sell like hot cakes inside the UAS campus itself.
“Demand for millet products is on the rise in the state. Millets are more nutritious and rich in minerals and fibres than wheat, and processing units were established at the UAS under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY),” say Agricultural Processing and Food Engineering Department (APFED) officials.
Dr Udaykumar Nidoni, head of the department at APFED, says the aim of the department is to replace consumption of refined wheat flour with millet flour and encourage farmers to be a part of the millet revolution in the state.
First published by The New Indian Express