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The nutritional value of millets

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The nutritional value of millets


  • The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has declared 2023 to be the ‘International Year of Millets’.

What are millets?

  • Millets are fundamentally grasses.
  • They are cultivated worldwide, but especially in the tropical parts of Africa and Asia, as cereal crops.
  • Some of the more common varieties include pearl millet (Cenchrus americanus), barnyard millet (Echinochloa utilis), finger millet (Eleusine coracana), and foxtail millet (Setaria italica).
  • There is both palaeontological and textual evidence to indicate that millets were being cultivated in the Indian subcontinent five millennia ago.
  • According to the Agricultural and Processed Foods Development Authority, India is the world’s largest producer of millets.
  • In 2021­2022, the country accounted for 40.51% of the world’s pearl millet production and 8.09% of sorghum.
  • Within the country, pearl millet made up 60% of all the millet production, sorghum 27%, and ragi 11%.


Why are they sought after?

  • Millets have two broad features that render them attractive
  1. Their nutritional value being comparable to that of major extant food crops (and better on some counts) and
  2. Their ability to reliably withstand harsh, resource­poor conditions.
  • They are drought­tolerant, adapted to growing in warm weather, and require low moisture (axiomatically, they are particularly efficient consumers of water) and loamy soil.
  • They don’t grow well in water­logged or extremely dry soil which might occur after heavy rainfall or particularly bad droughts, respectively.

Are millets nutritious?

  • The nutritional content of millets include carbohydrates, proteins, fibre, amino acids, and various minerals.
  • Different millet varieties have different nutrient profiles.
  • For example, pearl millet — one of the oldest cultivated varieties — has been found to have higher protein content than rice, maize, and sorghum, while being comparable to that of barley.
  • According to various studies, foxtail millet is rich in the amino acid lysine; finger millet has more crude fibre than wheat and rice; proso millet has a significant amount of the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and methionine.
  • Overall, millets have been found to be important sources of micronutrients and phytochemicals.

Syllabus: Prelims

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