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ITC arm, ICAR bid to promote sorghum consumption
The Hindu Business Line - 25 Jun 2010

A small but interesting experiment is being conducted in two districts of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra to reintroduce sorghum and other millets back into the local menu.

A corporate has joined hands with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and some other public institutes to promote the consumption of nutrient-rich sorghum.

In order to promote sorghum consumption, the consortium partners have begun projecting it as a ‘health brand' that could help tackle diabetes and obesity. And to attract farmers, they are offering seeds that could give them better yields, besides a buyback offer.

The two-year-old project, which is midway through implementation, is being taken up by ITC through its agri-business arm and the National Research Centre for Sorghum (NRCS, Hyderabad). The National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and the Acharya N. G. Ranga Agricultural University too are involved in the pilot project that has roped in 2,500 small farmers, covering as many acres in the two districts. The pilot would end next year.

“The idea is to offer farmers an end-to-end solution. They have been getting help piecemeal from different quarters. But they need it as a comprehensive solution, right from sowing to production and, then, to reach out to the market. Creation of demand is also very important,” Mr S. Sivakumar, Chief Executive Officer of ITC's Agri Business Division, told Business Line.

“For now, we are focusing on the rural markets. We are not pushing it much in the urban areas,” he said.

The ITC's $900-million arm is using the e-Choupal network as a communications platform for stakeholders in the project, which is being taken up under the National Agricultural Innovation Programme of ICAR. Besides, ITC has also taken up the task of creating an appetite for sorghum products.

“We are not looking at a one-off experiment. We are trying to evolve a sustainable model that helps the farmers and other stakeholders work on a long-term model that could work for other millets as well. It should be viable for all stakeholders,” Mr Sivakumar said.

“The area under sorghum, especially kharif sorghum, has come down drastically to 3 million hectares from 12 m ha 30 years ago. However, rabi sorghum continues to be prime source of direct food, used mainly as roti,” said Mr B. Dayakar, Principal Scientist at the Directorate of Sorghum Research.

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