Any agri-commodity requires critical levels of production and productivity. Induced agricultural productivity is controlled by market forces and value addition. This can only be done when primary, secondary and tertiary value addition happens for commodities that are available in large quantities.
Pulses, millets and legumes are nutritionally rich but are at low levels of production. These are the Nutri Grains. They must be affordable for the lower economic strata of population.
India is the storehouse of pulses, millets and legumes, which are grown across in the country. This has come from hundreds of years of experience and, therefore, time-tested. During the imperialistic rule these Nutri Grains were labelled as horse grams, pigeon peas, cow peas, etc. treating these as animal feed, thus giving a lower status for a farmer who grew it. Some scientists have called them orphan crops!
Today India imports large quantities of pulses, even while we can expand production of these with marginal policy changes. With a holistic approach, we can formulate coordinated action plans to make India self-sufficient. Production of pulses can be doubled by 2025. Value addition should be the key point in the campaign to take Two Crops of pulses a year!
A mission for higher productivity, along with bringing more area under pulses, are essential. These must be remunerative to the farmer which will help India’s vision of doubling the income of farmers. Promoting any one of these separately will not address the issue. Pulses, millets and legumes all go in combination for a typical healthy diet of the consumer. This will help tackle diabetes, blood pressure, cardiac diseases…
With the consumption of pulses, millets and legumes along with the intake of sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables and a reasonable quantum of staples, the health of the population will improve.
Capacity building in pulse production has to be aided by expending awareness through communication in local language along with support for marketing the produce. It need not replace staple foodgrains and can be made to fit with the proper rotation of crops. ICAR can lend its expertise to ensure this.
India can become a net exporter of pulses and the time for this is now!
(From a recent address at the MSSRF).