- The department of agriculture & farmers welfare, Ministry of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to boost the initiative promoting millets towards the celebration of the International Year of Millets (IYOM)-2023.
- Umbrella term: Millets is a common term to categorize small-seeded grasses. Millets include sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, Kodo millet etc.
- Growth factors: Millets can grow in poor soil conditions with less water, minimal fertilizer and pesticides.
- India: Major producers include Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana.
- Global: India, Nigeria and China are the largest producers of millets in the world, accounting for more than 55% of the global production.
Benefits of Millets
- Hardier and drought-resistant: They can withstand higher temperatures, thus known to be a suitable choice as ‘climate-smart cereals or dryland-cereals.’
- Nutri-cereals: They are high in dietary fiber and known as a powerhouse of nutrients including iron, folate, calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, vitamins and antioxidants. Thus, they can mitigate nutritional deficiencies in women and children.
- Prevent/cure lifestyle diseases: Millets can also help in tackling health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and lifestyle problems as they are gluten-free, have a low glycemic index and are high in dietary fiber and antioxidants.
- Inter-cropping: Fibrous roots of millet plants help in improving soil quality, check water run-off and aid soil conservation in erosion-prone areas, thereby restoring natural ecosystems.
- Tackles climate change: As a C4 group of cereals, millets convert more carbon dioxide to oxygen and contribute in mitigation of climate change through a low carbon footprint of 3,218-kilogram equivalent of carbon dioxide per hectare (as compared to wheat and rice).
- Production decline: Due to low remuneration, lack of input subsidies and price incentives, subsidized supply of fine cereals through the public distribution system (PDS) and change in consumer preferences lowering demand.
- Absence of effective market linkages for millets and other agricultural produce. Also, millet consumption is restricted to rural areas, bazaars, tourist spots and festivals.
- Insufficient processing units close to millet fields: It causes local producers to transport their produce to distant places.
- For example, raw grains of Kodo millets produced in Tamil Nadu, need to be transported to Maharashtra for processing.
India’s efforts in Millets promotion
- Global Map: India is trying to bring millet back on the global map by-
- building support, organizing & promoting millets and millet-based commodities market.
- forging effective market linkages for millet-based products to maximize the value capture.
- POSHAN Abhiyan: In 2018, the government decided to mark the national year of millets and had also notified millets as nutri-cereals by including them under the POSHAN Mission Abhiyan.
- Rainfed Area Development Programme: Developing and identifying new areas receiving adequate rainfall for millet farming as a part of the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana(RKVY).
- National Food Security Mission (NFSM): Millets promoted NFSM to help provide good nutrition to those who are unable to afford it. The government included millets in the public distribution system, to provide a steady market for its produce.
- APEDA’s ‘Millet in Minutes’ products: Recently, APEDA launched a variety of products like Upma, Pongal, Khichadi, Noodles, Biryani, etc under the Ready-to-Eat (RTE) category.
- The ‘Integrated Cereals Development Programmes in Coarse Cereals’ was initiated by the government under Macro Management of Agriculture.
- International Year of the Millets 2023: India’s initiative to promote millets was recognised and in March 2021, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declared the year 2023 as the international year of the millets.
- MOU: The department of agriculture and farmers welfare and the NAFED will collaborate in facilitating advisory support to manufacturers and processors of millet-based products to develop value-added millet-based commodities.
Initiatives to promote Millets
- Boarding of start-ups inclusive of startups empanelled with Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR)
- Formation of Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) for developing a range of millet-based products
- NAFED Bazaar stores network to promote market millet-based products
- Installation of millet based vending machines at various locations across Delhi-NCR.
- The Prime Minister of India has highlighted the benefits of millets to both farmers and consumers in his latest address of his radio programme Mann ki Baat.
- A multi-pronged strategy needs to be adopted for the promotion, facilitation and accessibility of the Millets in India and the world. India has taken the right steps in this regard.