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The Raghavan Report Healthy eating in Asia: How can the global grain industry be a part of it? by Raghavan (‘Ragha’) Sampathkumar Recently, I participated in an event on traditional varieties and cultivars of major and minor cereals and staple crops in India. Many of these such as pearl millet, finger millet, foxtail millet, and pulse crops such as horse gram were once part of everyday diets of Indians. But in the last few decades, these crops were gradually replaced by a few major ones, i.e. rice, wheat and maize – all grabbing a major share in daily calorie intake. However, it was heartening to see an enormous amount of diversity in terms of germplasms in crops including rice, wheat, millets and even some native trees. As a food & agribusiness professional, I was very excited as I can connect each of these with the greatest challenges that global agriculture faces today. For example, I noticed a traditional rice variety naturally rich in iron content, which can effectively be used to mitigate anaemia. There was a medium duration rice variety, which grows in hilly tracts and does not require as much water as the one grown in the plains and delta regions. Another rice variety was claimed to be well suited for people suffering from diabetes and another variety was well known for its aroma. Interestingly, there was a unique variety of rice that was claimed to be the preferred one when a newly wed groom visits his spouse’s home. It was such an enriching and learning experience for me personally. Even though the event was organised in one of the metropolitan cities of India, it was really amazing to see a large number of people who seemed to be curious to know about agriculture. I noticed parents getting to know about these crops for the first time and explaining to their kids about what they used to see during their childhood in villages. It was also a platform for the audience to learn about urban agriculture including home gardening and terrace gardening. When I looked at the enthusiastic crowd, I realised a few things that could be useful for the grain industry. Firstly, the concept of ‘health through food’ is gaining ground much faster in the developing countries as life-style related diseases such as obesity and associated problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are emerging as new threats particularly in the middle-class and also wealthier segments. Then, there are niche opportunities that can be explored by resurrecting some of the erstwhile popular traditional varieties and cultivars and pitching them against certain health issues. However, it depends on building effective market linkages at the front end and contract farming arrangements at the back end of the food chain. Further, there is a growing curiosity among the consumers to know what is happening in the food chain and how food is produced. On a positive note, this is an opportunity to educate them properly about new innovations that are till date not well understood widely. This is perhaps most important as public perception is one of the most important determinants that can influence the policy making process. In the next column, I will be sharing more ideas that I was able to gain from the interesting event. If you have any feedback or would like to discuss anything mentioned in this column further, please send me an email on: vnsraghav@gmail.com Or if you’d like to read more of my work, have a look at my blog: asmalltownkid.wordpress.com

Raghavan (‘Ragha’) Sampathkumar is a seasoned food and agribusiness professional with 360 degree understanding of the complex political, socio-economic, environmental and cultural perspectives of the Agri-Food value chain. He has more than 13 years of experience working in various subsectors of food & agribusiness including agro commodities, international trade, agri-inputs, biotech, and animal nutrition sectors across Asia-Pacific. 18 | July 2017 - Milling and Grain

Sonny Perdue responds to President Trump’s Paris Accord announcement

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he US Department of Agriculture (USDA), have released the statement of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on President Donald Trump’s Paris Accord Announcement. Mr Perdue announced, “President Trump promised that he would put America first and he has rightly determined that the Paris accord was not in the best interests of the United States. In addition to costing our economy trillions of dollars and millions of jobs, the accord also represented a wilful and voluntary ceding of our national sovereignty. The agreement would have had negligible impact on world temperatures, especially since other countries and major world economies were not being held to the same stringent standards as the United States.” He continued, “The Earth’s climate has been changing since the planet was formed – on this there is no disagreement. At USDA, we rely on sound science and we remain firmly committed to digging ever deeper into research to develop better methods of agricultural production in that changing climate. Floods, droughts and natural disasters are a fact of life for farmers, ranchers and foresters. They have persevered in the past, and they will adapt in the future – with the assistance of the scientists and experts at USDA. To be effective, our research and programmes need to be focuses on finding solutions and providing state-of-the-art technologies to improve management decisions on farm and forest lands.”

JUL 2017 - Milling and Grain magazine  
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