Nirmala Sitharaman announces 'Millet Challenge' for startups

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced a startup challenge with Rs 1 crore grants for three winners that develop innovations across the millet value chain.
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Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday announced the "Millet Challenge" for startups, with a seed grant of Rs 1 crore each to three winners to design and develop innovative solutions for and across the millets value chain.

She also announced Rs 25 crore funding by NABARD under Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) to University of Agricultural Sciences, Raichur, for establishment of Millet Value Chain Park, incubation centre for processing, value addition, and capacity building for promotion of millets.

Sitharaman was speaking at Millet Conclave 2022 organised jointly by Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), University of Agricultural Sciences and NABARD in Raichur.

"Soon within a week or 10 days, I will have the NITI Aayog announce a challenge for startups, all focusing on millet, millet-related matters, and that challenge will be thrown open to anyone who wants to participate, inclusive of young minds who wants to be associated with startups, to take up the challenge and provide solutions through innovative ways," she said.

Noting that before December the announcement of the winner will be made, she said that the Millet Challenge will award seed grants of Rs 1 crore each to three winners, Rs 20 lakh each to 15 selected candidates, and Rs 10 lakh each to 15 other selected candidates.

The Minister also urged large companies which deal with millet processing, particularly to focus on the backward Kalyana Karnataka, and a brand be created for this region of the state.

"Like Kodagu and Araku means coffee, Kalyana Karnataka means millet. That kind of branding and powerful marketing should become exercise. I invite startups to work with the kind of companies which can help us brand millets from India to reach all countries of the world, particularly when we are looking for healthy alternative food," she said.

Sitharaman also expressed concern over a report that there is a drop of about 60 percent of land under cultivation of millets, and that too in a state which gives Rs 10,000 per acre as incentive to grow millets.

"Seriously, there is a need to come out with a suggestion on what is the cause? Is it just the market or anything else, we need to know that," she said.

Pointing out that Karnataka is a leading producer of millets, the Finance Minister said, India in the global scenario is the highest producer of millets and its fifth largest exporter.

She listed out seven reasons why more emphasis should be put on millet production, like nutritional security, Atmanirbhar Bharat, women participation, scope of value addition, employment generation, startup environment, and climate resilience.

Edited by Megha Reddy

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