India is becoming the destination country for healthy food items like millets and the government is promoting biofortified varieties to address malnutrition, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Sunday said as he participated in the G-20 agriculture meeting virtually.
Tomar said the United Nations (UN) has accepted India's proposal and declared 2023 as international year of millets and urged the G-20 nations to support the celebration of the millet year to promote nutrition and sustainable agriculture.
The G20 Agriculture Ministers' Meeting is one of the ministerial meetings organised as part of the G20 Leaders Summit 2021 to be hosted by Italy in October.
"The Government of India has emphasised on re-introducing traditional food items including millet, other nutritious cereals, fruits and vegetables, fish, dairy and organic products in the diet of the people. Their production has been phenomenal in India in recent years and India is becoming a destination country for healthy food items," an official statement quoted Tomar having said in his virtual address.
Tomar said biofortified-varieties, which are the source of staple diet rich in micro-nutrients, are being promoted to remove malnutrition. About 17 such varieties of different crops have been developed and released for cultivation.
The government has also taken steps to increase the optimal use of water resources, create infrastructure for irrigation, conserve soil fertility with balanced use of fertilizers, and provide connectivity from farms to markets, he added.
The minister was addressing a session on "Working together to achieve the Zero Hunger goal: successful projects implemented by the Ministries of Agriculture".
Stating that Indian agriculture has achieved great success after the country's independence, Tomar said, "The Indian agriculture sector remained unaffected even during the COVID pandemic." Various government initiatives to keep the agri-market dynamic along with the agri-input supply chain during the COVID pandemic have helped the agriculture sector in better performance, he said.
Consequently during the year 2020-2021, there has been increase in the production of foodgrains as well as in exports, he added.
Highlighting measures taken towards sustainable agriculture, the minister said the 'Per Drop-More Crop' scheme for irrigation and 'Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana' for organic farming is being successfully implemented. Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana is being implemented to provide insurance cover for the farmers.
"India is fully aware of its commitments on the issues of climate change and several steps have been taken to make agriculture sustainable," he said.
To address the malnutrition problem, India is running the world's largest food-based safety net programme, which includes the Public Distribution System and the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, he added.
The government is also providing an annual income support of Rs 6,000 under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana. So far, Rs 1.58 lakh crore has been deposited in the bank accounts of more than 11.37 crore farmers under this scheme.
Further, Tomar assured that India will share best practices and build capacities of other developing countries.
He reiterated India's resolve to continue working together to achieve the Poverty Reduction' and 'Zero Hunger Goal as part of the sustainable development goals. He also reiterated India's resolve to cooperate in research and development as well as exchange of best practices to enhance productivity.
Tomar led a four-member Indian delegation to the G20 Agriculture Ministerial meeting which was organised in a hybrid mode due to the pandemic.