Millet farming is on the rise in Karnataka as against a drop in paddy farming due to deficit in rainfall, Karnataka agriculture minister Krishna Byre Gowda said on Friday. Kharif sowing is seen lower by 8 lakh hectares in the state due to three consecutive droughts with farming of paddy lower by 1-1.25 lakh hectares in the Cauvery region, he said. The Karnataka state has declared a restriction on paddy and sugarcane cultivation in the Cauvery region due to water shortage and consequent dispute with the neighbouring state.He advocated the cultivation of millets as an alternative for water intensive crops like paddy. “Earlier, in ten years, only three used to be rain deficient years. It has changed and for the last three years, our state has suffered tremendously due to the shortage of water. Rain-fed crops like millets consume lesser water and use of pesticides are also lower on that account,” he added.
Byre Gowda said that millets are a healthier option for consumers as they are low on glycemic index. He was in Kochi to promote the ‘Organics & Millets 2018 — International Trade Fair’ to be held in Bengaluru in January. Gowda said that despite millets like ragi being the staple diet of the Karnataka population, farming area was seen decreasing continuously in the last twenty years. From nearly 30 lakh hectares of millet farming in the 80s and 90s, it has declined to less than 14 lakh hectares. He said that the drought like conditions in the state due to deficient rainfall promoted the government to promote millet as a crop and healthier lifestyle to consumers. Lesser returns from millet farming also led the farmers to substitute millets with other crops like paddy and sugar cane.“We should reduce white foods such as white rice, white sugar and maida from our diets and replace them with organic and millet options available in the market.” He urged the fitness enthusiasts to replace quinoa or oats with locally grown millets. “No amount of incentives is equal to a better crop price for the farmer and the only way to get a better price is to increase the consumption of millets. And that is why we started promoting millets,” he added.The Karnataka government has earmarked `34 crore in the current budget to promote the cultivation of millets.