2023 Looks Promising for Indian Millets

India is poised to become the global hub for millets with a production of more than 170 lakh tonnes which makes for more than 80 per cent of the millets produced in Asia. The earliest evidence for these grains has been found in the Indus civilization and was one of the first plants to be domesticated for food. It is grown in about 131 countries and is the traditional food for around 60 crore people in Asia and Africa. India accounts for 80 per cent of Asia’s production and 20 per cent of the global production of millet. India’s average yield of millets (1239 kg/hectare) is also higher than the global average yield of 1229 kg/hectare. As per the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence & Statistics (DGCIS) data, India registered a growth of 8.02 per cent in the export of millets in the financial year 2021-22 as the export of millets was 159,332.16 metric tonnes against 147,501.08 metric tonnes during the same period last year. 

India has also planned to organise millet promotional activities in South Africa, Dubai, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Sydney, Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom and United States of America by facilitating the participation of different stakeholders from India in some of the significant food shows, Buyer Seller Meets and Road Shows.

While conveying his message at the opening ceremony of the IYM 2023 held at the headquarters of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Italy on December 6, 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “I would like to congratulate the United Nations and the FAO for the launch of the IYM 2023. Millets have a glorious history of being among the earliest crops grown by humans. They have been an important food source in the past. But the need of the hour is to make them a food choice for the future! Raising awareness to create ‘Millet Mindfulness’ is an important part of this movement. Both institutions and individuals can make a tremendous impact. While institutional mechanisms can encourage the production of millets and make them profitable via policy initiatives, individuals can make health-conscious and planet-friendly choices by making millets a part of their diet. I am positive that the IYM 2023 will start a mass movement towards a secure, sustainable and healthy future.”

Preparing for the IYM 2023 

The declaration of IYM 2023 has led to a series of events and initiatives being organised by concerned Ministries / Departments in India to create awareness and inspire all stakeholders to work towards improving the production and productivity of the climate-resilient and nutritious millets across the globe. A number of events were also organised in the country to facilitate the millet movement. The IYM stands to provide a unique opportunity to increase global production, ensure efficient processing and consumption, promote better utilisation of crop rotations, and encourage better connectivity throughout food systems to promote millets as a key component of the food basket. 

On December 15, 2022, Anita Praveen, Secretary, Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI), chaired a roundtable interaction with senior officials from central ministries, departments, and key stakeholders such as major agri-food companies. During this roundtable, the Ministry has proposed to organise a Mega Food Event on October 16-18, 2023 in New Delhi. This event is aimed at providing an opportunity for stakeholders such as producers, food processors, equipment manufacturers, logistics players, cold chain players, etc. to showcase their strength in the Indian Food Processing Sector. While the mega food event will focus on all segments of the Food Processing Sector, this will have a specific focus on promoting millets and millets-based products owing to the IYM 2023. Through this event, the ministry envisages spreading awareness about the role of millets in sustainable agriculture and food security and its benefits as a superfood in the contemporary world. 

While addressing the ‘Millets-Smart Nutritive Food’ Conclave held on December 5, 2022, Piyush Goyal, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution and Textiles said “There were around 250 startups being supported by the centre working on millets and Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR) has been incubating startups on millets and the Indian Institute of Packaging (IIP) could be roped in to innovate and improve the packaging of millets and millet products. Many of the millet-related startups came into this business after PM Modi declared that 2023 would be the year of millets. We must work together to mainstream the millet story and make millets globally acceptable to solve problems of malnutrition and starvation that many parts of the world continue to face.”

The government is currently organising IYM 2023 at the domestic and international levels. To promote the shipment of Nutri-cereals, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry through its apex agricultural export promotion body, the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has prepared a comprehensive strategy to promote Indian millet exports across the globe. Centre has developed 30 e-Catalogues on each of the targeted countries comprising information on various Indian Millets and the range of their value-added products available for export, a list of active exporters, startups, FPOs, and importer/retail chain/hypermarkets, etc. that to be circulated to the Indian Embassy abroad, importers, exporters, startups and stakeholders.

While chairing the meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (MoA&FW) on the subject ‘International Year of Millets’, Union Minister of MoA&FW, Narendra Singh Tomar stated, “Government plans to hold several programmes in the country and abroad for popularising millets and other Nutri-cereals. Besides, all ministries/departments of the Government of India, along with the state governments, will promote the Nutri-cereals in coordination with the Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (DA&FW) and the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE). The action plan of IYM 2023 focuses on strategies to enhance production, consumption, export, branding, etc. of millets and other Nutri-cereals.”

On October 3 2022, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between DA&FW and the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited (NAFED) to work together for the promotion and marketing of millet-based products, keeping in view the initiative of IYM 2023.

A series of pre-launch programmes and initiatives are also being organised by the DA&FW on the MyGov platform (a citizen engagement platform of the Government of India) for the IYM 2023 to create awareness and a sense of public participation about this ancient nutritious grain (millet). MyGov has become a very important and successful medium for raising awareness through contests. Millet startup innovation challenge, Mighty millets quiz, designing millet comic story, etc. are a few contests to name. 

Indian Railways is also all set to serve high-end delicacies and customised health-conscious low-calorie millet-rich regional menu to the passengers. This initiative in terms of the millet menu for Vande Bharat Train is in sync with the theme of the IYM 2023.

In line with the IYM celebration in India, a variety of other initiatives are rolling in the country. NITI Aayog and the World Food Programme (WFP), India, launched the ‘Mapping and Exchange of Good Practices’ initiative for mainstreaming millets in Asia and Africa on July 19, 2022. This initiative will present an opportunity for sharing among Asian & African countries and trigger informed decisions if they wish to scale up/ replicate this idea. Moreover, the Department of Food and Public Distribution has recently directed to introduce and promote millets in their canteens and in meetings. Additionally, APEDA has launched gluten-free millet products for all age groups at affordable prices. As part of the promotion of Indian millets, APEDA has planned to showcase millets and its value-added product at various global platforms such as Gulfood 2023, Foodex, Seoul Food & Hotel Show, Saudi Agro Food, Fine Food Show in Sydney (Australia), Belgium’s Food & Beverages Show, Germany’s BioFach and Anuga Food Fair, San Francisco’s Winter Fancy Food Show, etc.

In the opening ceremony of IYM 2023 in Italy on December 6, 2022, Shobha Karandlaje, Minister of State, Agriculture & Farmers Welfare in her speech, said “Nations need to collaborate to develop a sustainable future, and millets will play a pivotal role in the process. There is an opportunity to contribute to the future well-being of mankind by bringing back ancient food grains through IYM. India will steer the IYM 2023 celebrations worldwide and organise campaigns to promote the cultivation and consumption of millets, both in India and abroad during the next year. IYM 2023 will lead India toward Food and Nutritional Security. Millets are considered ‘Smart Food’ as they are easy to cultivate, mostly organic, and contain high nutritional value. With PM Modi’s vision of “Vasudaiva Kutumbakam” (The World is One Family), the IYM 2023 celebration is an opportunity for India to promote Nutri-cereal Millets globally and place them in the world’s ‘food map’.

With this level of preparedness, the year 2023 looks promising for Indian millets, both in terms of domestic as well as international markets. 

Mansi Jamsudkar


Image credit- istock

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