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How India’s Millets Will Benefit From The International Year of Millets

Context

  • The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has declared 2023 to be the International Year of Millets, as proposed by India (IYM).
  • Prime Minister aims to make IYM 2023 a ‘People’s Movement’ and also to position India as the ‘Global Hub for Millets’.

Relevance

GS Paper-3: Major Crops – Cropping Patterns in various parts of the country

Mains Question

Why is increasing millet consumption and production important for India? Discuss in light of the International Year of Millets in 2023.


How has the Indian government taken the lead in this?

  • Rebranding:
    • In April 2018, millets were rebranded as “Nutri Cereals,” and the government declared the same year the National Year of Millets in order to increase production and demand.
  • Opening ceremony:
    • The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will host the IYM 2023 opening ceremony in Rome on December 6, 2022.
    • An Indian delegation of senior government officials also attended.
  • Millet Luncheon:
    • Last month, the Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare hosted a special ‘Millet Luncheon’ for Members of Parliament, which included the Vice-President and the Prime Minister.
  • G20 Meetings: Millets have been made an integral part of the G-20 meetings, and delegates will get a true millet experience by tasting, meeting farmers, and participating in interactive sessions with start-ups and FPOs.
  • Promotion through various activities:
    • The Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs has planned 15 activities in January, including video messages from athletes, nutritionists, and fitness experts, as well as webinars on millets with leading nutritionists, dieticians, and elite athletes.
  • Fairs and exhibitions:
    • Millet Fair-cum-exhibitions will be organised by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh.
    • Eat Right Melas will be held in Punjab, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu by the FSSAI.
    • In January, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, and Punjab are scheduled to carry out specific activities for sensitization and promotion of IYM, in addition to millet-centric activities such as Mahotsav/melas and food festivals, farmer training, awareness campaigns, workshops/ seminars, hoarding placement, and promotional material distribution.
  • Highlighting the diversity of Indian millets:
    • The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) will participate in a trade show in Belgium to highlight the diversity of Indian millets.
  • Global celebration: Over 140 Indian embassies will participate in the celebration of IYM in 2023 by hosting side events involving the Indian diaspora through exhibitions, seminars, talks, and panel discussions.

The Benefits of Millets

  • Nutrition:
    • Nutritionally superior to wheat and rice due to higher levels of protein with a more balanced amino acid profile, crude fibre, and minerals such as iron, zinc, and phosphorous, millets can provide nutritional security and protect against nutritional deficiency, particularly in children and women.
    • Anaemia (iron deficiency), B-complex vitamin deficiency, and pellagra (niacin deficiency) can be effectively treated with a diet rich in nutritionally dense food grains such as millets.
    • Millets are Nutri-cereals that are high in nutrients such as protein, essential fatty acids, dietary fibre, B-Vitamins, and minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, and magnesium.
  • Health: Because millets are gluten-free, have a low glycemic index, and are high in dietary fibre and antioxidants, they can help with health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and lifestyle issues.
    • They contribute to health benefits such as blood sugar control (diabetes), blood pressure regulation, thyroid, cardiovascular, and celiac disease.
  • Low input requirements: Because millets do not require high-quality soil to grow, they can easily meet the needs of a growing population.
  • Millets are drought-resistant and hardy crops. This is due to their shorter growing season (70-100 days versus 115-150 days for rice and wheat), lower water requirement (350-500 mm versus 600-1,250 days for rice and wheat), and ability to grow even in poor soils and on hilly terrain.
    • They can withstand higher temperatures, making them the perfect choice as ‘climate-smart cereals’.
  • Livelihood:
    • Millet production has the potential to generate livelihoods, increase farmer income, and ensure food and nutritional security not only in India, but around the world.
    • Unless consumption increases, there will be insufficient demand to encourage farmers to switch to millets.

Can government policies (for example, MSP) help increase millet production and use in India?

  • Despite the fact that the MSP for millets (ragi, bajra, and jowar) has been increased by 80-125 percent between 2013-14 and 2021-22, their combined production has decreased by 7 percent to 15.6 million tonnes over the last eight years.
  • While Bajra output has remained stable, jowar and ragi output has decreased.
  • This highlights the need for policy-level intervention to ensure that farmers receive remunerative prices for millets and that their returns exceed those of crops such as paddy.

The export market for Indian millets:

  • The $470 million (in 2021) global millets market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.5 percent between 2021 and 2026.
    • APEDA has set a millet export target of $100 million by 2023-24, up from $64.28 million in 2021-22.

Way Forward

  • The International Year of Millets-2023 would provide an opportunity to promote millets as nutritious cereals globally.
    • A combination of central funding and decentralised procurement linked to nutrition goals — specifically, eradicating hidden hunger among school-age children — can achieve for millets what the Food Corporation of India did for rice and wheat.
    • Accelerating Millet Startup Incubation is a critical forward link for catering to various dynamic segments in domestic and global markets.
    • Customers’ mindfulness and focus on health and well-being should be accurately captured, and the demand for superfoods and functional foods should be met with millet-based products.
  • Involving the private sector in inclusive investment will go a long way toward mainstreaming millets not only in India but also in export markets in preparation for the International Year of Millets-2023.

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