Reviving Forgotten Treasures: The International Year of Millets

Millets have been an integral part of Indian agriculture and cuisine for centuries. They have stood the test of time as one of humanity's earliest cultivated crops, thriving in challenging environmental conditions and requiring minimal water resources. 

Millets, a group of small-seeded grasses that are cultivated as staple food crops in many parts of the world, including India, were traditionally domesticated in Asia and Africa. These resilient grains gradually spread worldwide serving as a vital cereal crop for developing civilizations throughout history. They are known for their hardiness and ability to grow in dry and semi-arid regions with limited water resources.

In India, several types of millets are cultivated, with some of the most common ones being:

  • Pearl Millet (Bajra): Pearl millet is one of the most widely grown millets in India. It is primarily cultivated in the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, and Maharashtra. Bajra grains are used to make rotis (flatbread) and can be used in the preparation of porridge, khichdi, and various other dishes.
  • Finger Millet (Ragi): Finger millet is a nutritious millet variety and is mainly grown in the southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. Ragi is known for its high calcium content and is used to make rotis, dosas (pancakes), porridge, and other traditional dishes.
  • Foxtail Millet (Kangni/Kakum): Foxtail millet is cultivated in several states across India, including Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. It is often used to make rice dishes, idlis (steamed rice cakes), and dosas.
  • Little Millet (Kutki/Sama): Little millet is grown in different parts of India, including Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Odisha. It is used to make khichdi, upma (a savory dish made with semolina), and porridge.
  • Barnyard Millet (Sanwa/Jhangora): Barnyard millet is cultivated in various regions of India, including Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Uttarakhand. It is used to make porridge, kheer (sweet pudding), and upma.
  • These millets are highly nutritious, rich in dietary fiber, and gluten-free. They have gained popularity in India due to their health benefits and suitability for people with dietary restrictions. Millets are also considered more sustainable compared to other cereal crops as they require fewer inputs, such as water and fertilizers, and are resilient to climate variability.

Being from one of the leading millet-producing nations, Indian farmers have been embracing millet as a viable solution to combat drought conditions. The concerted efforts of farmers and policymakers have contributed to the upward trajectory of millet production in India. This positive trend is expected to persist, further bolstering the country's position as a key player in the global millet market.

In a significant recognition of the value and importance of millets, the United Nations designated the year 2023 as the International Year of Millets (IYOM). This global recognition, proposed by India and backed by 72 countries, pays homage to the ancient wisdom of humanity. Millets hold the distinction of being the first plants ever domesticated for food production. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has expressed his aspiration to transform IYM 2023 into a widespread 'People's Movement’, while simultaneously establishing India as the primary global center for millets. In addition, Indian embassies in over 140 countries will actively participate in the celebration of IYOM in 2023 by organizing side events that engage the Indian diaspora. These events will include exhibitions, seminars, talks, panel discussions, and more, all aimed at highlighting the significance of IYOM.

India's efforts to boost millet production have yielded positive results. In the year 2021-22, millet production recorded a remarkable 27%  growth compared to the previous year, showcasing the country's commitment to expanding and enhancing millet cultivation. In terms of exports, India has witnessed a significant growth trajectory. During the 2021-22 period, millet products worth $ 34.32 mn were exported, marking a notable increase from the $ 26.97 mn recorded in the previous year. 

India has fostered a thriving ecosystem of over 500 start-ups actively engaged in various aspects of the millet value-added chain. Additionally, the Indian Institute of Millets Research has played a crucial role by incubating 250 start-ups through the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana. These initiatives demonstrate the country's commitment to nurturing innovation and entrepreneurship in the millet sector.

The finance minister in her Union Budget speech expressed the government's ambition to position India as a global hub for 'Shree Anna', emphasizing the significance of millets. To achieve this goal, the Indian Institute of Millet Research in Hyderabad will receive support as a Centre of Excellence and will serve as a platform for sharing best practices, conducting research, and exchanging cutting-edge technologies at an international level. This strategic move highlights the government's commitment to elevating the status of millets and promoting their global recognition as a valuable food source.

The Indian government is also actively engaged in promoting millets which is anticipated to have a profound impact on the future trajectory of millets. To ensure their success, the primary focus remains on enhancing productivity, providing processors and exporters with cost-effective, high-quality raw materials to produce value-added products on the global stage. Achieving  this objective necessitates dedicated research and development endeavours, centred on improving access to superior millet varieties, implementing efficient processing technologies, and extending the shelf life of millet products, among other critical aspects.

Millets offer a unique advantage as a dual-purpose crop, serving both as food and fodder. This versatility makes millet cultivation more efficient for farmers, maximizing the benefits derived from their agricultural practices. These robust and adaptable crops might prove to be the right environmentally friendly choice and a sustainable superfood for a greener future.

We are India's national investment facilitation agency.


For further queries on this subject, please get in touch with us @Invest India.
Raise your query