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Krishna Ella makes a pitch to remove GST on millets
Richa Mishra, Senior Associate Editor, businessline with Krishna Ella, Chairman, Bharat Biotech, at the millets conclave 2023 in Hyderabad. | Photo Credit: BIJOY GHOSH
Dr.G.R.Balakrishnan Sep 16 2023 Exim News

Krishna Ella makes a pitch to remove GST on millets

One of the key players who helped India tackle the Covid pandemic with the Covaxin vaccine, Krishna Ella, Chairman of Bharat Biotech, had a different pitch to make at the millets conclave.

“The government should remove the GST (goods and services tax) on millets so everyone will join the mission on millets (products),” he said at a fireside chat with Richa Mishra, Senior Associate Editor, businessline.

His views found support from C Tara Sathyavathi, Director, Indian Institute of Millets Research — the centre of excellence in millets. “If demand for millets can increase rapidly, we can request the government to consider a GST waiver,” she said. 

Responding to a question on promoting marketing of millets, Ella, who also owns Ella Foods, said the government and private sector will have to come together.  “Those in millets are small players who cannot support themselves. If, for example, ITC Ltd makes a millet product and gets a GST waiver, everyone will run behind the product,” he said, in a session filled with fun and humour.

Stating that NABARD should make a simple intervention in seeking the Centre to remove the GST, he said: “If we ask someone like the Planning Commission (NitiAayog), they will think of too many figures.”

Ella called for a holistic approach to tackle the issue of tax on millets. “Organisations such as NABARD should take the issues such as 5 per cent GST on packaged millet. Otherwise, representations on this will become another paper,” he said. 

Calling for a different thinking in marketing millets, he said NABARD should fund  a survey on consumers’ millet preference in the European Union and US. 

One of the ideas is to introduce millet products that are gluten-free.. “Scientists, industry, policy makers and the government have to come together to promote millets. Let’s make the US eat our millets,” he said, adding that “we need to see how to present millets differently”.In a lighter vein, Ella said: “Probably, we need more GST on rice?” Stating that food is a business, the Bharat Biotech Chairman said: “We have a perception against millets as poor man’s food. [But] time has come to provide value for millets. We have to change the brand and nutritional value,” Ella said.

 Ella pointed how corn producers in the US came up with Kellog’s research institute to promote the use of corn cereals to solve the issue of surplus production.