• Millets are cereal crops with high nutritive value and categorized as small-seeded grasses.
    • The key varieties of millets include Sorghum, Pearl Millet, Ragi, Small Millet, Foxtail Millet, Barnyard Millet, Kodo Millet and others.
  • High in dietary fiber, nutri-cereals are a powerhouse of nutrients including iron, folate, calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, vitamins and antioxidants.
  • Being grown in more than 130 countries at present, millets are considered traditional food for more than half a billion people across Asia and Africa. 
  • Millets are important by virtue of their mammoth potential to generate livelihoods, increase farmer’s income and ensure food and nutritional security all over the world.


India and Millets:

  • In India, millets are primarily a kharif crop, requiring less water and agricultural inputs than other similar staples. 
  • India produces around 12 million MT of millets annually and is the world leader in the production of millets with a share of around 41% of total world production in 2020.


State-wise production:

  • Major producers include Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana.


Status of Indian Millet Exports:

  • India’s export of Millets is 64 million USD in the year 2021-22. 
  • India is exporting millets to 139 countries across the globe. The export of value-added products of Indian millets are also spread across the world. 


Major Export Destinations of Indian Millets:

  1. Nepal
  2. UAE
  3. Saudi Arabia


Significance of Millet Cultivation:

  1. Cost efficient: 
  • Millets are good for the soil, have shorter cultivation cycles and require less cost-intensive cultivation.
  1. Climate resilience: 
  • Millets can withstand high temperatures, floods, droughts and are suited for and resilient to India’s varied agro-climatic conditions.
  1. Stress tolerance:
  • Millets are not water or input-intensive, requiring lesser water than other crops making them a sustainable strategy for addressing climate change and building resilient agri-food systems.
  1. Social benefits: 
  • Millets possess immense potential in the battle against poverty and provide food, nutrition, fodder and livelihood security. In rainfed farming areas, millet cultivation provides livelihood to 50% of tribal and rural population.
  • Millet farming has led to women’s empowerment. The Odisha Millet Mission saw 7.2 million women emerge as ‘agri-preneurs’.
  1. Agri-growth and increased income:
  • India is the largest global producer with a 41% market share. A compound annual growth rate of 4.5% is projected for the global millet market in the coming decade.
  • Boosting millet cultivation will empower the average farmer and achieve the objectives of enhancing incomes and improving crop diversification.
  1. Restoration of ecosystems and sustainability: 
  • Land degradation has been a major problem in India. Drought-tolerant crops (like millets) with low dependence on chemical inputs would put far less pressure on ecosystems.
  1. Biofuel production: 
  • Millets also offer a significant cost advantage over maize as a feedstock for bio-ethanol production. They have higher photosynthetic efficiency. Their potential yield is unaffected by higher carbon dioxide levels.
  1. Nutritional benefits: 
  • They are a rich source of macronutrients and micronutrients like calcium, protein and iron. 
  • They have a low glycemic index that prevents type 2 diabetes. They can help to prevent cardiovascular diseases, lower blood pressure.


Challenges in Millet Cultivation:

  1. Effects of Green Revolution: 
  • The Green Revolution succeeded in making India food sufficient, however, it also led to water-logging, soil erosion, groundwater depletion and the unsustainability of agriculture.
  1. Biased policies: 
  • The procurement, subsidies and water policies are biased towards major cereals such as  rice and wheat.
  1. Skewed cropping pattern: 
  • Three crops (rice, wheat and sugarcane) corner 75 to 80 percent of irrigated water and are cultivated in more areas under mission mode.
  1. Lack of diversification: 
  • Diversification of cropping patterns towards cereals, pulses, oilseeds, horticulture is needed for more equal distribution of water, sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture.
  1. Lack of marketing facilities:
  • In some village areas, farmers are not getting the do not get the market to sell their crops. 
  • To sell crops in bulk they have to locate certain small shops since there is no profitable market or demand nearby. This also makes the distribution of crops difficult.
  1. Low crop productivity and high labor intensity: 
  • Cultivating millets requires strong manual labor and is difficult for a single person to do. Added to this is the fact that certain millets turn out to be low in productivity.
  1. Lack of investment in millet product development and promotion/ advertisements.
  2. Distant processing units:
  • It causes local producers to take their produce to distant places. For example, raw grains of Kodo millets produced in Tamil Nadu, need to be transported to Maharashtra for processing.


Government Initiatives:

  1. Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA):
  • The APEDA is also working in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare to increase cultivation area, production and productivity of millets, including bajra, jowar and ragi.
  1. Millets as Nutricereals:
  • The millets are a rich source of protein, fibre, minerals, iron, calcium and have a low glycemic index. In view of the nutritional value of the millets, the government has notified millets as nutri-cereals in April, 2018. 
  1. International Year of Millets:
  • In March, 2021, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets.
  1. Intensive Millets Promotion (INSIMP): 
  • Launched in 2012 as a part of the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana(RKVY), to advance equipment and technology related to millet harvest and increasing productivity of inefficient areas.
  1. Rainfed Area Development Programme:
  • Developing and identifying new areas receiving adequate rainfall for millet farming as a part of the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana(RKVY).
  1. MSP of nutri-cereals:
  • The government hiked the MSP of nutri-cereals, which came as a big price incentive for farmers. 
  • As we compare the data on MSPs for food crops from 2014-15 against 2020, we see that the MSP for ragi has jumped a whopping 113 percent, followed by bajra and jowar at 72 percent and 71 percent respectively.  
  1. National Food Security Mission:
  • Millets are being promoted under the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) to help provide good nutrition to those who are unable to afford it. 
  • To provide a steady market for the produce, the government included millets in the public distribution system.
  1. “Millet in Minutes” products:
  • Recently APEDA launched a variety of “Millet in Minutes” products under the category of Ready-to-Eat (RTE) such as Upma, Pongal, Khichadi, Noodles, Biryani, etc, 
  • This is a breakthrough in the food sector as it’s the first RTE millet product in the market to cater fast-paced worlds at their convenience in a healthy way.  
  1. Nutri-Gardens and Behaviour Change Campaign:
  • The Ministry of Women and Child Development has been working at the intersection of agriculture and nutrition by setting up nutri-gardens, promoting research on the inter-linkages between crop diversity and dietary diversity and running a behaviour change campaign to generate consumer demand for nutri-cereals.


Way forward:

  1. Nutrition Ambassadors and Entrepreneurs:
  • Grassroots workers like the anganwadi and ASHA workers must be further involved as nutrition ambassadors and entrepreneurs in the millet revolution.
  • Promote participatory millets farming, drawing best practices from Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Karnataka. 
  • Agri-tech farms can be roped in to disseminate recommended practices to micro-entrepreneurs.
  1. Creation of an attractive value chain:
  • Collaborations with schemes like National Rural Livelihoods Mission and focus on the creation of an attractive value chain are needed. 
  • Techniques in packaging and processing must precede efforts to target metropolitan cities and urban centers to create more demand. 
  • Promotion of processed millet products such as ragi cookies, bajra biscuits, jowar namkeen. 
  1. India Millets Mission:
  • An inclusive rural economy can be built around millets by promoting entrepreneurial ventures through the India Millets Mission. Similarly, initiatives around appropriate pricing must be undertaken.
  • APEDA can incentivize commercial cultivation of millets such as ‘one district one product’ or cluster farming for trade promotion.
  1. Training and capacity-building initiatives:
  • The need of the hour is dedicated programmes with proper training and capacity-building initiatives that urge farmers to move away from loss-making crops toward diversification via millets.
  • Agricultural Technology Application Research Institutes and Krishi Vigyan Kendras can invest in capacity building of smallholder farmers through field demonstration.
  1. ‘Vocal for Local’ campaign:
  • There is an imported penetration of seeds, whole grains and cereals not native to the Indian geography or cuisine. Quinoa is a prominent example that has seen increasing domination in urban diets. 
  • Hence, under the ‘Vocal for Local’ campaign, indigenous crops must be lent more support and focus. 
  • Re-introduction of cultural associations and festivals that help promote the growth of millets. E.g., North-East Network in Nagaland organized in 2020, Mandukiya in Visakhapatnam celebrated annually in June/July.
  1. Empower women farmers:
  • Empower women farmers and self-help groups (SHG), by equipping them with advanced packaging techniques, agro-marketing, financial literacy and other entrepreneurial skills.
  1. Introducing millet cultivation in areas where farmer’s distress is visible:
  • One way to double farm incomes and encourage farm diversification is to make millet production attractive by introducing millet cultivation in areas where farmers’ distress is visible.
  • For instance, the cotton dependency of Vidarbha’s farmers and economy is well-known, especially in the arid zones. The region in Maharashtra is also known as the farmer suicide capital.
  • Perhaps one of the most important solutions is to encourage cotton farmers to diversify into millet production after careful feasibility studies and feedback from the farmers themselves.


India should aim for a food systems transformation, which can be inclusive and sustainable, ensure growing farm incomes and nutrition security. As the government sets to achieve its agenda of a malnutrition-free India and doubling of farmer’s incomes, the promotion of the production and consumption of nutri-cereals seems to be a policy shift in the right direction.

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