• Recognizing the enormous potential of millets in providing food and nutritional security, which also aligns with several sustainable development goals of the United Nations, India’s government named millets as ‘Shree Anna’ in this year’s Union Budget.
  • It announced support for the Indian Institute of Millet Research, Hyderabad, as a centre of excellence for sharing best practices, research and technologies at the international level.

About Millets:

  • Millet consumption in India dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization.
  • India is the world’s largest millet producer.
  • India’s Pearl Millet production accounts for 40% of the world’s millet production.
  • Millets are highly varied group of small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cerealcropsor grains for fodder and human food.
  • Millets are important crops in the semiarid tropics of Asia and Africa (especially in South India, Mali, Nigeria, and Niger), with 97% of millet production in developing countries.
  • Millets are indigenous to many parts of the world.
  • The most widely grown millets are sorghum and pearl millets, which are important crops in India and parts of Africa.
  • Finger millet, proso millet, and foxtail millet are also important crop species.

Benefits of Millets:

  • Millets are highly nutritional crops with low carbon footprints that are rich in protein, minerals and dietary fibre, making them more nutritious than fine cereals.
  • Their low glycaemic index also helps in controlling diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
  • These crops can be grown on arid and semi-arid tracts where fine cereals like wheat and rice cannot be grown profitably.
  • Research by Washington State University has found that dry-lands worldwide will expand at an accelerated rate because of future climate change.
  • Millets can solve this challenge, as they can be grown on less fertile and acidic soils where wheat cannot be produced.
  • Similarly, rice is susceptible to soil salinity.
  • Pearl and finger millets can be an excellent substitute for rice cultivation on land where the soil salinity is 11–12 dS/m (DeciSiemens per metre) or more.
  • Moreover, the rainfall requirement for rice is around 120-140cm, which is very high compared to certain millets like pearl and proso millets, where the need is as low as 20cm.

Why millet production went low?

  • The advent of the Green Revolution led to increased production of wheat and rice all over the world.
  • However, as an unintended consequence, there was a decline in area under the cultivation of nutrition-rich crops like maize and millets (jowar, bajra and ragi).
  • With an increase in yield for rice and wheat, the per hectare returns on rice and wheat became much higher than millets, which left no incentive for farmers to grow these crops.
  • In addition to the factors mentioned above, the taste and preferences of consumers also changed over time.
  • Rapid urbanization led to more demand for ready-to-eat food using refined wheat flour.
  • Studies have shown that one of the reasons for households not consuming millets regularly is their lack of knowledge on how to incorporate these in their diets.

Way forward:

  • we should focus on the entire value chain, an exercise that would include improved varieties while assuring millets better shelf lives, efficient processing and access to markets.
  • This should include branding, packaging, awareness programmes, and also collaborations with ready-to-eat brands.
  • In addition to that, we also need breakthroughs in productivity to make these crops more competitive and stimulate commercial demand.
  • Odisha has set a remarkable example through its ‘Millet Mission,’ which embraces a community-led approach involving 1,500 Tribal women-led selfhelp groups (SHGs) to foster millet entrepreneurship across the value chain. This effort should be replicated in other states.

Syllabus: Prelims