Chennai: A lack of awareness on the nutritional value, a superstitious fear that one may become dark and the lack of interest in the taste of ragi and millets are a few reasons why many people in urban as well as rural Tamil Nadu prefer rice.
Though nutritionists and doctors stress on the need to include ragi and millets in one’s diet for a healthy living, and to bring down the burden of malnutrition, especially among women and children, the general public prefers rice due to the lack of availability of the product.
"A variety of delicacies can be made from ragi and millets, namely, puttu, dosa, roti and ragi balls. Apart from promoting these products, the government should also take the initiative of distributing various millets and ragi products through government hospitals and Primary Health Centres to pregnant women and breast feeding mothers", said Sagayam, a ragi grower.
An expert from the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) said that extra efforts have to be put in to create awareness to take care of pregnant women and babies to avoid malnutrition.
"We are pushing for a ‘malnutrition free Tamil Nadu’ and encouraging the consumption of ragi and millet is an important factor that we are focusing on", added the expert.
Members of the Millet and Ragi Growers’ Association say that the state is supposed to introduce and promote this highly nutritional and comparatively cheaper traditional food variety.
"The state should get celebrities to endorse these products. Also, it can be promoted and distributed through the Public Distributive System (PDS) shops and subsidies for farmers can be given to encourage its cultivation," said Esther Maria Selvam of Action Aid, which promotes the crops.
In a recent conference during National Nutrition Week, held at MSSRF, a demand was made to increase the quantity of ragi and millets distributed through PDS should be increased from two kilograms to two-and-a-half kilograms.