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Ernakulam Krishi Vigyan Kendra functioning under the ICAR-Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (ICAR-CMFRI) organised a three-day Millet and Fish festival at ICAR-CMFRI, Kochi, Kerala from 28th to 30th December 2023.  The festival, held in line with the observance of the International Year of Millets-2023, had its focus on creating awareness about the rich nutritional value and health benefits of millets as well as their harmonious fusion with fish for a balanced diet. The event also aimed to facilitate the development of a robust market value chain within Kerala for millets grown by farmers outside the state. The festival was inaugurated by Dr C Tara Satyavathi, Director of ICAR-Indian Institute of Millets Research, Hyderabad. Dr A Gopalakrishnan, Director of ICAR-CMFRI presided over the function. Dr L Narasimha Murthy, Chief Executive of the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) was the Guest of Honour at the inaugural function. The fest featured a variety of activities, including millet and fish food festival, buyer-seller meet, live fish sale, sale of millets and millet-based products, millet cookery show, millet recipe contest, technology exhibition, nutrition and health talks, seminars and panel discussion.

An array of nutritionally beneficial and healthy fusion dishes of millet-fish combination was available across the food stalls, providing the public with the opportunity to savor these wholesome dishes and understand their nutritional and health benefits. It showcased delightful delicacies such as kodo millet-shrimp biryani, little millet-seafood sadya, octopus fry, seaweed halwa, pearl millet smoothie, millet sweats, ragi-fish sausage, millet porridge with shrimp, etc. drawing food enthusiasts from all walks of life. A special highlight of the food festival was the Karnataka vegetarian millet food stall, run by a team of 12 farmers, including women, from Krishi Vigyan Kendras of Belagavi and Gadag districts of north Karnataka. Their offerings included mouthwatering dishes like bajra bread, finger millet poori, ragi ball, millet snacks and sweets. Led by experts from the KVKs Belgavi and Gadag districts of Karnataka, the cookery show unveiled methods of preparing several millets, emphasizing the importance of cooking these Nutricereals in a way that keeps the nutritional potentials of millets in their full form. The recipe contest featured a wide range of millet-fish combo dishes. Innovations like fish nirwana, millet khawa and multi-millet steam cake, different varieties of millet biryani were the highlight of the contest that brought out creativity as well as culinary expertise of the participants. A Spice Expo-cum-Buyer-Seller Meet sponsored by ICAR-Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR) was also held at the festival. It offered an opportunity for millet farmers, farmer producer companies, self-help groups and agri-startups alike to forge business deals with consumers and traders. Spice farmers’ producer organizations and start-ups associated with the ICAR-IISR and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) also participated in the buyer-seller meet.

An entrepreneurship meet held at the fest unveiled promising business opportunities in areas such as millet processing, value addition, branding, packing and marketing. Information on funding support for budding entrepreneurs with innovative ideas, technology incubation facilities and services for food entrepreneurship being offered by various institutes under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) were discussed at the session. A panel discussion at the fest highlighted that increased efforts to promote and popularize the millet products should continue even after the International Year of Millets in 2023.ICAR-Indian Institute of Spices Research, Kozhikode, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, National Fisheries Development Board, Hyderabad, ICAR-Indian Institute of Millets Research, Hyderabad, and ICAR-Central Institute of Fisheries Technology, Kochi among many others were partners of the event.

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